As most of you know, I am a communication professor. And because I teach people how to get along with each other, it is not surprising that I would have my students write papers about their relationships. One of the assignments is to take a relationship in their lives and analyze it - and how you can improve it.
Well, I have to admit to rolling my eyes occasionally when I read some of them. I'm not proud of it. And I don't do it to be mean. You see, I roll my eyes whenever a person says something like "my boyfriend who I met in a chat room and lives in Australia ..." or "my best friend who I met on Facebook and lives in Switzerland..." When I read things like that, I always used to say to myself, "People! Those are not a real relationships! They are half way across the world! How can you possibly think they are even remotely equivalent to a REAL relationship?"
That is where I stand corrected.
Over the past year or so, I have met so many incredible people. And when I say "met" ... well ... *ahem* ... you guessed it. I "met" them virtually! Suddenly, I find myself in a situation that I used to think was ludicrous. A "friend" who lives half way across the world? Huh? Have I suddenly become my students? How did this happen?
I have "met" people from all over the world: New Zealand, Florida, Canada, Colorado, England, California, and India, just to name a few. I have connected with these people for business reasons, but some of them have become good friends. And I can't even believe I am writing that.
*Eye rolling at myself*
But it's true.
So, I want to share 4 things that I have learned by being in these wonderful cyber-friendships:
1. Skype is awesome.
Before last June, I had never used Skype. Sure, I heard of it. I have known about it for 9 years, when some guy I was on a date with told me about it (not sure why I remember that!). But I had never used it. And the only reason I started using it is because someone from England asked me to be on his video podcast. Thank God for him, because if I hadn't learned, I might never have "met" all my other virtual friends.
2. Skype is *almost* as good as being in the same room with a person.
I say almost because nothing will ever replace being in someone else's physical presence and giving them a hug. Or going to have a drink with them. Or singing a bad karaoke duet together. Those are things you can't do over Skype. But you can still sit down and have an amazing conversation and get to know someone just as well.
3. Things like the internet, social media websites, and Skype opens up your world.
If it weren't for any of these, I never would have met some of the most amazing, intriguing, intelligent people in the last year. What a gift! While I may not meet them all in person (I hope I do), it's still awe-inspiring that we can talk in real time and get to know each other as if we were at happy hour together.
4. The virtual world allows you to connect with like-minded people.
Don't get me wrong, I love my local friends with all my heart. But let's face it, not all of them have the same outlook on life or passions. Some are in completely different lines of work that I don't understand (such as engineering ... I wouldn't understand a word of what they're saying when they talk!) But most of my virtual friends are in similar lines of work (motivational speaking, life coaching, writing, counseling, entrepreneurs, etc). Sometimes I find that I have more in common with them than I do some of the people I've known for years.
I am not implying that I think virtual friends are the exact same thing. I am still "old-fashioned." I like to see people face-to-face, give them a hug, and actually go do something with them other than sit in front of a computer. And I hope that someday I get to do what with some of these virtual friends.
But meanwhile, I'm going to continue to enjoy these friends, and I look forward to seeing our relationships grow.
So, if you are like how I used to be - rolling your eyes at virtual relationships - maybe you should give it a try if the opportunity arises. After all, you never what kind of amazing people YOU might meet!