One of the things that I’ve been asked a lot — by people in fandom when I participated in that (them wanting to meet me, them wondering if I would go to conventions), by various people on the Internet that I’d known or that I’ve known for varying periods of time — is… under what circumstances will I meet someone from the Internet in person, if there are any. I’ve also had well-meaning friends that I’ve known for awhile ask me the same question, so it’s not always asked by people that I mind answering it from. But the thing that has gotten me for awhile has always been the assumption that you have to be open to meeting people that you know, or even like, from the Internet “after enough time has passed”, or that there have to be favorable conditions for you to be willing to do this. Back when I participated in fandom activities online, I felt like I alienated more people than I befriended when I made it known that I wasn’t willing to meet up with them in person — bullet dodged there, perhaps literally — and that I had absolutely no intention on attending any conventions or other fan meet-ups even if someone else paid my way to attend, and this had been floated.
I felt like it made me a “bad member of fandom”, or that I “didn’t like (the show, or the thing) enough” if I wasn’t willing to meet people in person who… also liked that thing, or to attend conventions or fan meet-ups to show — other people, as it would turn out — “just how much I liked it”, but then I began to think about it more, and I realized that it didn’t matter at all to me what other people thought of just how much or how little I actually liked… whatever it was we were talking about, and that people ultimately did up end being right in that I did like it “less” than the people who were willing to pay several hundred dollars every so often for convention tickets, meet and greets, photo ops, the whole nine. And as time went on, I thought more about what that meant for the friendships that I had with people online. Under what circumstances would I meet them in person? Would I? Were there circumstances? (As it turns out, I am skittish about that as well.)
I think that for me to feel comfortable meeting people outside of… say, TwitchCon or VidCon — two conventions that I would feel safe attending, because I know how they are run and have seen evidence of how they are run online in both picture and video format — I would have had to know someone for an extremely long time online, so probably going on a consecutive decade. I wouldn’t want to meet up with them at my home address, because my current living situation is not tenable to that, and the people that I know in person are not friendly to the idea of “Internet friends” being brought around. It may be 2022, and we may do more online than we ever have, but some people are still less comfortable with the idea of the Internet tangibly being brought to their doorstep, and I respect that. I’m not going to force that on someone.
But right now, that’s not something that I actually want to think about since I can’t think of anyone off of the top of my head who satisfies that criteria. As much as I love so many of my Internet friends and think so many of them are awesome, I would much rather be conservative here (and during the pandemic, no less).