Meeting social media contacts face to face

By Caitlin Kelly

According to WordPress statistics, Broadside has more than 20,000 followers worldwide.

I’ve met only a handful of you face to face, in Paris, New York and in London.

In the past week, I sat down face to face with five men I previously knew only through social media — one from a writers’ listserv and the other four all met only through Twitter.

The meetings, of course, were purely professional for me — and for them — held in daylight in busy public spaces.


Viv is a super-talented writer, stand-up comedian and new friend — who followed me on Twitter from her home in London and hired me to coach her.


Every meeting went well and I learned about a new-to-me person and their world.

One is an African-American man who runs a thriving national program recruiting new professionals into radio work. Reassured by having a mutual NPR connection, we spoke on the phone a few years ago. He was wary, cool. Not unfriendly, but cautious.

We only see one another once a year or so when he comes to New York, but this time — our third — felt like old friends, with hugs and happiness at our chance to spend some time together and catch up.

Another is a man from my hometown, Toronto, who worked for years in my field of journalism, focused on financial news — but who I met through our frequent participation in multiple Twitterchats on travel, like #CultureTrav, #TravelSkills and #TRLT. Retired, he now travels the world, often on someone else’s dime, promoting cruise ships or hotels.

Another, decades younger than I, is a fellow member of a writers’ listserv who divides his time between his native Australia, Latin America and New York. Like me, he’s worked for both a broadsheet newspaper (like The New York Times) and a tabloid (like the New York Daily News.)



This amazing conference, Fireside, came to me through an email from a stranger — one of the best experiences of 2018


I met four of them in one day; the final one works in public relations in New York City, a field I hope to find more work in as a strategist.

And the fifth is a Florida man my age working on innovative ways to re-invigorate journalism; we met this week for coffee in my town while he and his wife were visiting.

Many people, I realize, are much happier remaining forever behind the screen, anonymous and safe, already too busy or overworked to add more to their plate.

As someone wholly self-employed, such enhanced and deeper connections can also lead me to paid work and new opportunities — a good personal meeting builds trust. My goal with social media is to connect intellectually, emotionally and professionally.

For me, social media is social, not just a place to scream and shout and rave.

I enjoy putting a face and character to a name, even if the person isn’t quite what I expected or would later consider as a close friend.

It does require a spirit of adventure and an open-ness to disappointment/delight. But working alone at home since 2006 can leave me lonely and isolated otherwise.


Have you met anyone face to face that you only first knew through social media?

How did it turn out?

35 thoughts on “Meeting social media contacts face to face

  1. Quite honestly, most of my friends here in Toronto are people I met through people I met online, or are friends of those people, or so on. I ended up moving to this city largely because I had at least some contacts here, contacts who I thought could become friends. Happily, I was right.

  2. Heide

    How wonderful that you are so open to meeting your online connections in real life (“IRL”) ā€” because it does take courage to open that Pandora’s Box! The majority of my IRL meetings have been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, it’s the friendships I’ve made through my blog that motivate me to keep chugging along, even when it seems no one is reading. And who knows … perhaps one day OUR paths will cross in Paris or New York? šŸ™‚

    1. It does take a bit of bravery — but if (as I had) you’ve already been interacting with them through tweets, blog comments or other social media, you do “know” them in some degree and it’s not a total shock. There are some I would choose not to meet, based on what I’ve read (and others who would feel that way about me, I’m sure.) Only one or two have proven a bit surprising but not disastrous. A public place, a coffee, surrounded by others, to me is a perfectly safe option.

  3. It’s funny how you emphasize the ‘safe’ part — for me it’s not so much that as a fear that we will not connect on a personal level once the masks are off. Not that I’ve had a chance to meet many blogging buddies in my corner of France yet. I would love to in future, but it takes a form of courage that for me is hard. What would be great would be a meet-up for several bloggers in a central location so it feels less personally risky…

      1. I’ve never worried about meeting people like this..I do not invite them to my home until or unless we get to know one another much better, which, if it’s a friendship, we will. The very worst experience of my life — in 1998 — came from meeting a man through a newspaper personals ad, never an online meeting IRL.

      1. Au plaisir! And if we could somehow combine a meet up with Caitlin, that would be three cool Canadians blogging from different continents! šŸ

      2. Yeah it would be so lovely to see you both in person. I’ve never been to Europe before… so could happily book that in one day! Unless we all meet up in the Mother land. haha.

  4. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Thursday links | A Bit More Detail

  5. I’ve met a couple of author friends I’ve only known online in the real world, especially once I joined the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writer’s Association (I’m hosting the upcoming meeting). And there are many more I hope to meet someday, God willing.

  6. how wonderful – as you said, you never know where these connections/experiences will lead. i’ve met 3 of my fellow word pressers, one i was unaware of in my own hometown – we even discovered we have close mutual friends, but had never crossed paths. the second, was in syracuse, a former sports journalist, who i met with his wife on my way back from a wedding, and the third, a swim coach and columnist, who i met while traveling all around ireland. each was much more than i expected and we have stayed connected.

  7. I have nine followers on Kennysaidwhat. None of them have ever met me face to face. The only people from the internet I have ever met in person were from a Gary Numan fan forum called I Dream of Wires. This was back around 2001. One of these people was really wonderful and the other was a complete jerk.
    I don’t know how I would feel about having thousands of followers, since it would have no real bearing on my professional advancement. I only follow blogs I find interesting and I assume others follow them for the same reason, so fair enough.

    1. Well, having 20,000 followers — while it sounds nice (and is certainly pleasant when explaining my digital value as a writer to clients who assume I am TOO OLD to possibly have any) — means less to me than people like you and Rami and Randy and Ksbeth and others who comment regularly and encourage me to keep the lights on.

      After nine years and 2000+ posts…:-)

  8. That’s a really nice thing to say. Thanks for saying it.
    The comments I make on this blog make up the majority of the content I produce on WordPress, so follow me or not, you’re still reading most of my stuff. Touche’

  9. I’ve found social media useful as a way of getting to know people who I “should” have known, within the history and writing field in New Zealand – and had occasionally encountered – but didn’t have much particular contact with otherwise. These are people who aren’t exactly total strangers, but live in other cities and have become better friends via social media. I’ve also made contact with various people internationally who I’d regard as, in effect, pen-friends (to use an older term) – an association built up over multiple years of exchanges via social media and, often, personal emails, during which it’s clear that they are genuine. That said, I’d be hesitant to meet anybody in person who I wasn’t that familiar with and knew only through brief contact on social media.

    1. I agree! I a, quite thoughtful about who I decide to meet and don’t bring a lot of expectation to the table. As I said, of the 5 I met, two are total acquaintances, one might be a good business contact, one I’ve “known” for several years through Twitterchats and the final one is becoming a good friend. I think it’s all very individual how it plays out.

      Good to hear from you again!! šŸ™‚

      1. Thanks! I do try to keep in touch with blogging friends – my attentions of late have been on finishing a book which is being commercially published next year and demands intense attention, particularly now it’s with the publisher and I’m wading into the cross-checking, proof-editing, etc. Because of the subject matter – NZ’s ‘founding document’ – it’ll be likely trawled by everybody from aggrieved academics to fringe extremists (we do have a few here) for anything that can be used to personally attack me, so I’m being particularly cautious on the fidelity checking. It’s been vying with a monograph and an occasional gig I have writing for a US website. Time, as always, presses, but then ain’t that always the case! Hope all’s well your way.

  10. One of my blog followers came to stay with me in September. We had planned a trip to Spain together but unfortunately I was unwell at the time and couldn’t go.

    We had a lovely time meeting up IRL for the first time. After years of emailing each other every few weeks, it honestly felt like I was meeting up with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in a while. I’m hoping to be able to visit her in San Francisco next year.

    If you ever visit the UK, it would be great to meet for a coffee. šŸ™‚

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