You can find me on pretty much every social networking site that you’ll find. If it’s a network and people are interacting in a social capacity – that’s where I am. I get a lot of questions on a daily basis, and this was one I couldn’t pass up the chance to answer. Dan wrote in, asking for detailed advice regarding social networking, and how he should venture into the world. He is new to social networking, and wants to get more information before diving in.
- How common is it for people who meet online to then meet in person, and how might it turn out? – I think it’s extremely common these days. There are a variety of meetups that happens all over the world. It’s only natural that when you get to know someone fairly well online, that you then meet face-to-face to further your connection. It will become even more common as the social tools such as Facebook and Twitter make it easier to connect.
- I’ve found certain people I would like to build a long-term rapport with. Before beginning, how can I go about this without scaring anyone away? – The first thing that would be a red flag to me would be if you were to say this, and it’s said to me all the time. Slow down, and just let it happen like any good friendship or relationship. Don’t force it. Interact with others, leave them comments, get to know them.
- Once the ice is broken, I would say that the only thing people can really safely share online are opinions, likes and dislikes… would you agree? – Absolutely. You’ve got to set your own boundaries, and respect them. If you don’t know what those are, you’ll quickly learn. If someone makes you feel a little weird, then boundary lines have been crossed. Everyone, male and female alike, need to know their own boundaries and comfort levels. You may only want to talk about certain things in your life without people knowing too much about you – letting people know what you will and will not talk about.
- Once I have kept a good online rapport with people and I decide I might like to meet them, how can I suggest it without sounding creepy? What’s a good length of time to talk online before suggesting we meet? – It largely depends on age and function. It also depends on finding people with common interests. For instance, for my birthday this year, I’m having friends over to have a LEGO build-athon, to build the Death Star that I’ve had for a year now. I’m only inviting people who are also interested in doing this. When choosing to meet someone in real life, make sure you have common interests, which could naturally lead to getting together on a level beyond the internet.
- If and when the time comes when we decide to meet in person, the tricky part is sharing more personal information such as names and phone numbers to connect. – I’m not sure what you’re asking here. You don’t necessarily have to share phone numbers. You can connect and set up your meeting via one of the sites such as Facebook or Twitter. I tend to end up calling people by their online handles when we meet in person… so my assistant Kat is glad that she uses her real name as her online name! It’s much less confusing that way.
- The advice I’ve read about meeting people online is to connect with people in my local area. However, many of the people I would like to meet are located in favorite travel destinations that I have. I am single, and travel alone. Therefore, I couldn’t exactly arrange to have a trusted friend present when meeting someone. Not only would it be a potential risk for me, but it could also make the other person uncomfortable. What can I do in this situation? – Again, formulate a meetup. Find a small group of people who share common interests, from places such as a Facebook group or something. Arrange a gathering in a local restaurant or coffeehouse, and have a great time. Keep in mind that even meeting one person is generally pretty safe, as long as you’re doing so in a highly public place. Arrange to meet in a restaurant during dinner hours, or at the Starbucks in town.
- As an aside, a non-provocative photo can go a long way towards showing one on their best behavior. Should I worry about people seeing these photos, such as potential bosses? – Yes, you should always be cognizant of what you post online. However, posting innocent, normal pictures of yourself is usually never a problem. Again, know your boundaries, and keep in mind that what you post online is there forever.
A word of advice – before meeting someone face-to-face, make sure you shower! This is something that some Geeks tend to forget, seriously!
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