I don’t like to sound like a child of the internet age, but sometimes I'm very wary of meeting people over the web.
When I was a child and just learning about computer safety in my elementary years, I would always remember being told that you shouldn’t meet people over the internet. As kids we were always told that everybody that you haven’t met in person is either a kidnapper or a rapist. Obviously, this is not true but for the longest time this was pounded into my brain. But now that I’m older, I’ve realized that I’m still cautious about who I meet online. Not because everyone out there is a predator, but usually because I end up hurting myself.
Close to two years ago, someone I had never met before shot me an email via my band’s Myspace. Through some crazy situation, she had found my music while trying to slack off on homework. My band’s name somehow showed up in the less academic section of the website Sparknotes.com. Nonetheless, she really enjoyed the music I made and the photography I had featured on the website. Within a few emails we soon became “Facebook Friends” so she could look at more of my photography work. We started to chat about things we liked to do and realized we had a lot of common interests. Some of which included biking, analog photography, and a heavy obsession with music. And just like that, from no connection, out of the blue, no mutual friends, not chance of running into each other in person, in June of 2009 we became friends.
Over the course of that summer, our friendship started to grow as we learned about one another more and more. She said she had been an apprentice for a photographer in the Midwest so she always seemed to be on top of developing times and random film facts that came in handy for me. She also had this infinite knowledge of music in her head. I’d stay a line from a song and she’d know it right away. She always seemed to be there for me whenever I really needed her. She was there during the times when I was just goofing off on the computer and she was there in those inopportune times when I needed someone to talk to the most. So needless to say, we started talking all the time.
Our friendship grew and grew until we were best of friends. Anything I did I told her about and the same with her back to me. In the oddest of ways I felt extremely comfortable telling her the deepest of my feelings and thoughts that I wouldn’t tell anybody else. Whenever I would do so she would legitimately contemplate everything I said and actually give me a well thought out response, which is something that nobody’s ever done for me. Every now and then we’d send each other little packages in the mail that consisted of film, or a letter, or some other goodie that we knew the other would enjoy. It seemed like the deepest friendship I’d ever had.
I started wondering if we’d ever meet each other in person.
So for some reason or another, in the spring of 2010 we slowly stopped contacting each other. I can’t ever seem to pinpoint some little event that might have changed this, but it was what it was. The Skype chats went from hours to minutes if at all, texts weren’t answered very often, phone calls ceased. I felt a bit lonely for a bit, but then once I got used to it, I started to occupy myself with other things. And so did she I’m assuming.
All the while, the little I did hear from her led me to believe she wasn’t doing the best. I was starting to hear and see pictures of her starting to mix with a more troubled crowd. Started to see her drink and all other sorts of behavior which she used to tell me she was against. And the worse the behavior got, the less and less contact I got from her.
Then in the summer of 2010, I got an email from her out of nowhere that read “I’m going to be in Portland in August. Hopefully we can hang out.” My heart leapt. It seemed almost unbelievable that I’d be meeting her finally. Just too good to be true. So we chatted a bit more and picked out a date that she was free on. So I stocked up on my film for my trip, brought a few cameras, bought her a record for her birthday and proceeded up to Portland.
So then on that one hot nervous day at 1 in the afternoon in August I found myself in Union Square in Portland Maine, waiting for my friend with a camera in my hand, an early birthday present for her, and a backpack full of film. And there I waited for her. Apprehensive for this get-together, I called her after 30 minutes of waiting with no response. She didn’t pick up the phone. 1 hour and 3 voicemails later, still she didn’t show up. So I waited for another hour. And nothing. And after the 3rd hour, I gave up and left, filled with despair and sorrow.
And from that day on, she never talked to me ever again.
I had never felt so alone in my life. At the same time, I had never felt like such a fool in my life. Everything that I considered to be our friendship now seemed to be nothing more than a myth and a myth at best. And with no apology and no further contact with her, I had to stop trying to contact her and do my best to remove her from my life. With a short goodbye letter, we were no longer.
And from that, I’d always been wary of meeting people online.
Almost through my hiatus of friends I haven’t met, I found Geltona on Lomography. I was captivated by her pictures and then captivated even more so to hear that we lived a little over an hour near one another. So we set up a date and place to meet at in October. I wasn’t sure if this was a good idea, but nevertheless, I found myself trekking all the way down to a strange town in Massachusetts that I had never heard of before to see someone that I’ve never met or have any mutual connection with other than Lomography.
And she showed up. She was there in her little yellow coat. We ended up taking a long walk on a nearby beach and traveling around the town to take pictures. Simply what we planned to do and that’s all it was. But there was so much more magnificent meaning to me. It seemed wonderful to me that someone I had barely talked to and had barely met and barely knew anything about showed up when we made plans out of the blue. To contrast that with someone that I invested so much of my life into who stood me up at the last minute brought me to this new beautiful realization about people. It gave me a whole new perspective on a lot of things. How people acted. How people thought. How people are just strange sometimes. How people can’t be predicted.
And if there’s one thing I learned from all of this, it’s that people are people and everybody’s different. Because one someone let me down, that doesn’t mean they all will. The fact of the matter is, is that we’re all strangers to each other, wandering through a vast field of uncertainty and unawareness. So now my fear of meeting new people is broken and you’ve all helped a little on the way.
Thank you all.