Last year when I ran off to Paris I didn't really know anyone there and as I didn't feel like spending three months traipsing mournfully along the boulevards, I did what anyone would do. I turned to the internet for help.
It was while I was googling Paris cocktail bars that I found 52martinis blog. I drank down the posts; they were witty with flashes of snark. Great! I thought. This "Forest" seemed like a fun possible drinking buddy and although I had "him" pegged as a gay guy, I wasn't sad when Forest turned out to be an ex-Seattle gal with a serious talent for socialising.
To make up for all that drinking, I also wanted to swim every day which is how I found pretavoyager's blog. I read a few of Anne's posts and really liked them. They were both on Twitter, so I followed them. I'm not sure whether I found Emma and Lindsey through Forest or Anne, but they had great-named and well-written blogs (Lost In Cheeseland and Liberte, Egalite and Creme Brulee), so I started to follow them too.
At this point, I'm worried I sound like a stalker. I mailed the gals to ask: "Not at all!" wrote Lindsey. "We're in the 21st century - methods for making friends that may have once been considered questionable are, for the most part, accepted and even encouraged!"
"I didn't think it was weird or pushy at all," mailed Forest, " I've met a lot of fun friends through Twitter or my blog. These days it's only natural that lines between real life and online blur and friends cross from one camp to the other."
Anne wrote, "For me, making friends on twitter isn't something where you set out and say, 'I'm going to make a new friend.' Just like real life, it's often the people you least expect that you connect most with. It's the people that engage you in conversation and don't necessarily expect a follow back right away that I am probably more likely to follow. Having similar passions – like swimming pools – or certain quirks can make you stand out in the sea of tweeters."
OK. Not so stalky. Good.
Back to the story...So after maybe 6 weeks of talking online, the first person I met in Paris was Emma for lunch. I remember her saying that it felt like we already knew each other - and we kind of did. We'd been dipping into each other's lives online for a month or so. She was great and I felt big sisterly towards her - still do.
The next week we went along to one of the 52Martinis cocktail meet-ups and that's where I met Forest and Lindsey and I felt like I was meeting old friends but for the first time. I asked Lindsey what she thought, "It's a true test of a person's online vs real life personality when you meet and when we met, you were warm, engaging and just as gregarious as you are online. After an hour of chatting I knew I could thank the Twitter gods for connecting me with someone who I could honestly say, even then, could be a lifelong friend."
Obviously I am crying when I type that in. Damn you, Cheesland, for saying exactly what I feel.
I then had three wonderful months of picnics and parties, eating fondue and drinking wine, and talking, tweeting, talking. I may have been alone over there but thanks to Twitter and my new-found friends, I didn't feel lonely. And it's lasted. A year later, I'm writing this on Eurostar, Emma's throwing me a welcome back party this week. Thanks to Twitter, just because I'm not in Paris anymore doesn't mean I don't get to feel like I'm part of my friends' lives.