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101 in 1001
American Road Trip, 1998


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Kitty Sandwich
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Sideways Rain


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Our host

2000-11-29 - 12:05:33

The Internet: A Worldwide Singles Bar

I can't check my e-mail. Hotmail does not expect the delay to last much longer, so I should check back in a few minutes.

Until then ...

I've always thought it interesting to read about people who meet one another online. This comes to mind because I've been meeting people online since I started this diary. I've never met any of them offline; in fact, I've only once met a person offline, and we never spoke after that. OK, we never e-mailed after that.

I certainly did not start my diary to meet people online. I started it for myself, because I like to write, but I sometimes have trouble disciplining myself, keeping up with the log. I figured if I put it online, I could tell my friends about it, and knowing they'd be reading, expecting new entries frequently, I'd keep at it.

I've only told three or four friends, and I don't even know if they read it. But when I made the diary public, I figured I had a responsibility to keep at it on the off chance someone reads it.

Someone does. A few somepeople do, particularly Grifgirl, who was the first person I know of to give me a plug in her diary. (Thanks!) I've gotten some messages from a few people, and sent some out to others, and I find it interesting how the Internet has made contact easier. I could stand on a small stage at a club or bar and recite some of the things I've written here. They're nothing special, but it would be similar: I'm presenting my thoughts and ideas to an audience. And say in that bar setting were some of the very people who read my diary -- you there, for example. Would you come talk to me afterwards, the way some of you have in signing my guestbook or e-mailing me? Were one of the authors of the diaries I read on stage, would I walk up to him or her (most likely her, because I haven't found a guy's diary I return to regularly yet) and introduce myself?

Not likely. But the Internet and e-mail allow us to control the level of anonymity and reveal more details about ourselves when we feel more comfortable. Sometimes, the correspondence ends after a few e-mails (I told one girl I'm a Mets fan and haven't heard from her since). And I suppose in other cases, it carries on. I don't have much experience there.

Except one. When I was in college, I was just becoming accustomed to e-mail. I started in the fall of 1994, when few people had it in their homes, and those of us starting college were just being introduced to it. It allowed me to keep in touch with some high school friends, with whom I may not have spoken to after graduation were it not for this new e-mail thing. So I sent out a forward I'd received -- I think it might have been that one that equaled Barney to Satan -- and a week later, I get a message from a woman at Syracuse. She had received the e-mail directly from me, and didn't know who I was. That was not surprising, since I had no idea who she was. My guess was that my e-mail had been redirected to her, thereby appearing to her that it had come from me. Whatever.

In any case, we continued to e-mail throughout the semester. We came to learn that there was a girl she knew from her hometown in Massachusetts whom I had gotten to know a little at Notre Dame. And that hometown in Massachusetts was a little north of Boston, while my best friend in college lived a little south of Boston. During Christmas break sophomore year, she and I would both be along the South Shore, and we decided to meet up at a bar not far from my friend's house.

Bryan and I walked in, saw Michelle sitting at a table near the front with half a dozen friends, and joined them. Too young to drink in an establishment that did not go easy on fake IDs, we remained sober.

And that's the last I talked to Michelle -- not to be confused with any other references to other Michelles I know who may have made appearances in other entries.

Contrast that experience to a story I overheard upon returning to Newark Airport from Seattle this summer. We were taxing to the terminal at Newark, when two men behind me started a conversation. (Incidentally, have you ever noticed that -- there is always someone on a plane within earshot who waits until the plane has landed before starting a conversation with the person next to him/her.) The first guy, we'll call him Aaron because it starts with two As, asks the second guy, hereby known as Zack, if he's visiting New Jersey or coming home.

"I'm coming home," Zack says. "I was just visiting my fiance."

"Oh really," Aaron replies. "Does she live out there?"

"Yes," Zack says. "She's from there. I just spent eight weeks with her."

"That's nice," Aaron answers. He remains quiet for a short while, then starts up again.

"So have you known each other for long?"

"About seven months," Zack tells him.

"How did you meet?"

"Over the Internet," Zack says. "This is the first time we've met."

That's when I nearly dropped my carry-on luggage. I could not bring myself to blatantly turn around and take a look at this guy, but I pictured a mid-30s man with a good job (has to have one, living in New Jersey). Don't know what he did for a living, or what she did. (I also heard him say it was the first marriage for both, not that it matters.) But I was floored to hear first-hand of a couple that met over the Internet, got to know one another over the Internet, courted and dated over the Internet (and presumably the phone), and then, after meeting up for the first time, spent weeks together and came out of it with an engagement.

Don't get me wrong -- I don't think it's impossible. It's just that I never hear those stories for myself. I read about them, see them on TV, hear them from others.

And after further thought, it does not surprise me as much. For myself, I think I can be more open and honest when I write, so I can see how people would feel comfortable with one another after reading some of their deepest thoughts and feelings. And when you get to know someone through only words, you know more about their personality than their looks, so you're already interested in them as a person. The only thing I can think of right now, off the top of my head at 12:30 a.m., that will not come across as well is humor. Sure, people can write funny things, and be funny when they write, and I like to think I can, and do, and am. But that spontenaiety is what's missing, the reaction to what someone else says or does, that split-second thought, one-liner, that comes out of my mouth at the right moment that gets people laughing out loud: When I can find a way to get that out electronically, then I might have a chance...

At what, I don't know. And I guess we already have that to a point with instant messaging.

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Yeah, sorry I have to be all legal on you here, but unless otherwise indicated, all that you read here is mine, mine, mine. But feel free to quote me or make fun of me or borrow what I write and send it out as an e-mail forward to all your friends, family and coworkers. Just don't say it's yours, you know?