Leave the Business Cards at Home

by Emily Jasper on February 8, 2010

This weekend was my birthday, and I went to Madison to celebrate with my friend Brennan and the Brazen crowd. We had a blast! And not for the reasons I originally thought…

When you are spending time developing online relationships, through twitter, blogs, or communities, you get an image of the people on the other side of the profile pic. You assume, now that we don’t have to totally fake who we are, that the people in person are going to be pretty similar to the persona on the web. And for the most part, it’s true.

And then you start talking to people, and the exciting stuff happens!

See, you don’t really know all the ins and outs of your internet friends. You are really only getting a glimpse of the whole person, and even if everything online is totally genuine, it’s still only one layer of many. When you meet in person, you have to find those other layers.

You talk about art movies like Frida and Pollock.

About driving on I-95 from D.C. to Richmond and avoiding the Emporia, VA speed traps.

That every song at the piano bar is “Your birthday song!”

Discovering that apparently you are totally gullible and continue to think a non-intern is actually an intern.

And you NEVER expected one of them to break out the Mick Jagger impersonation.

I think to myself, “Why is this so different from the other times I’ve met other online people?” It’s because we’re there to hang out, not network! We’re there to have fun, not get ahead. It’s one of the first times in a while that I’ve gone out in a group and didn’t feel compelled to bring my business cards.

Now, this may have been a special situation: if I met people who weren’t already connected to me directly, there’s only one degree of separation. We’d find each other online very easily.

After this weekend, however, I’ve decided that if I continue to travel, meeting my online friends, that I want to have fun. We can talk shop, but we can also -GASP- get to know each other! Isn’t that what real friendship is about anyways? I don’t want my relationships to only be about getting ahead fast professionally, but about connecting beyond that superficial “Nice to meet you” handshake.

Do you find that when you visit those you’ve met online that you can put away the business cards and really get to know the person? How often to you seek out those internet connections? Are any of them surprising you?

*Update: Dan Schawbel has a great post on Brazen about the Value of Virtual Relationships, a bit more evidence for you.

Ivory Room Piano Bar, photo.