However, if you're willing to take time to cultivate online friendships, you will find a host of absolutely brilliant people well worth knowing--people who, due to distance, you couldn't know any other way.
Naturally, online discourse cannot replace real human connection. That is not my argument at all. In order for these friendships to blossom, meet-ups must happen eventually.
If you are very careful, if you are very brave, and if you are willing to travel, you can have the chance to meet some of the most wonderful people.
Your life will be richer for it.
As I may have already mentioned, though, you have to be careful.
Please know that for all of the plans I've made to meet up with people over the years, I've never just sallied forth, willy-nilly. I have several rules to which I adhere. Take them for what they're worth.
Ruth's Official Rules of Meet-ups:
1) Initial meetup must be in a public place. This greatly lowers my chances of stumbling into something sticky. We can enjoy tea in your cozy book room later, once I've ascertained that you don't plan to murder me and stash my remains under the floorboards.
2) Don't go alone. I rarely travel alone anyway. Given my penchant for injuring myself, that's just asking for trouble. If you're planning to meet up with a new friend, take someone with you; preferably someone who can knock someone's block off if he gets frisky (or, in my case, just to keep you from breaking your neck in the event of any unintentional self-inflicted injuries).
3) Don't meet up with anyone with whom you don't have a third-party connection who can confirm that this person is real, safe, and relatively normal. Unless you can prove to me that you are who you say you are through at the very least the friend of a friend, no dice. I must have met in person someone who has met you in person or who has a friend who has met you in person (and lived to tell the tale). Of course, the more people you meet, the easier this process generally becomes.
4) If it gets weird, leave. I'm talking bad-weird here, not good-weird or just weird-weird. Because good-weird and weird-weird can be fun, but bad-weird never is (except possibly in retrospect). In other words, I don't mind if you're a bit quirky (because let's be honest: pot, kettle, etc.), but if you seem to be a swirly-eyed lunatic, I'm out of there before the coffee stops steaming.
In short, although there are risks involved in cultivating online friendships, I've found that in the long run, the benefits far outweigh the hazards.
So.... wanna meet up?
Caveat: I have many, many more pictures of awesome meetups than I had time and space to post here.
To everyone who's put up with meeting me, thank you so much!
The pleasure really has been all mine.