Thursday, August 18, 2016

Meet Me In St. Louis. Or Cleveland.

Back in the early ‘90s I was working predominantly night-shift. My “days-off” found me awake at my computer at 4am, chatting with strangers via mIRC. It was the perfect diversion for a night-owl such as myself. Chat rooms were a new frontier for most, and were very shady business indeed. If you were active in IRC rooms during that period, then you know what I’m talking about.

It was a widely-held belief that 80% of "females" in the channels were actually men. Of course that would depend on which room you ventured into. And sometimes the chat room names were a cover for something more…sinister, and it wasn’t until you went in did you realize that #doglovers was not about pet owners chatting about the best food brands for their beloved pets. I would guess that most adults today are somewhat cautious and perhaps even skeptical about people they communicate with online. But surprisingly some research of late suggests that people are much more honest than we thought. We tend to hear about the sensational cases: a man deviant poses as a teen to lure in unsuspecting children, a sociopath scams someone out of their life savings. There are more sad stories than I care to think about. But Psychology Today recently reported that the vast majority of people in online communities are actually quite honest, suggesting that the relative anonymity allows people to be more transparent and open about themselves than they would be in a face-to-face relationship.

I take this revelation with a grain of salt because it was published by Psychology Today, a pop-psychology “journal” that makes the likes of John Gray into some sort of relationship guru for his ground-breaking claim that men are from Mars and women are from Venus (really, I had no idea men and women are different. Brilliant). But no, this post is not about why you should be skeptical about anything that begins with “research says…”. This post is about friendships forged in online communities, and the weirdness (and fun) of meeting these people in person.

It is the eve of the Cleveland series. Several from this blog are heading down to cheer on our team and, as we near the end of this glorious summer, indulge in some festivities. Some may take this opportunity to meet up with a few members from our own online community.

In the 5+ years that I have hung out with you fine people I have met three members in person:
  1. Andrew Stoeten. At Opera Bobs. I think he bought me a drink to shut me up.
  2. Night manimal. At a Jay’s game. He is not currently active in our group but maintains a Twitter account. I met his daughter too. Great guy.
  3. KyleZ. In Seattle. Jays weren’t the only ones to be swept away.
So hot on the heels of RADAR’s “Who Are YOU” post last week, I have a question that adds another flavour: assuming people here are a fair representation of themselves (give or take) and we are not a bunch of women pretending to be men just so that we can be taken seriously on a sports blog (zing!) which JITH member is first on your dance card? Who would you want to cross paths with, share a cab with, have a beer with? (And hey don’t feel too bad if nobody wants to meet research says that just means you are too normal).