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Growing up, one of the ideas ingrained in our mind was, “Don’t talk to strangers.” As children we are taught to blend into society. Technology consumes us. It literally consumes us. Hyperlinks and tags alter reality of interpersonal communication. Blogs and social networks are the epitome of creating yourself. They give us the opportunity to make connections to people through similar interests or mutual friends.

I swore to myself I would never try online dating. It’s bizarre to me. It’s also weird to me that there is a a stigma around creating online friends because it limits valued human interaction. I don’t think that we should be restricted to those people in our literal proximity: the neighborhood kids, classmates, family, etc. We are given opportunities learn new things, and we can use the internet as a stepping stone or platform to find other people that you would have gotten to know if given the chance. Tags, “at replies,” hashtags—these lead to connections and friendships. Using common sense and not getting too wrapped up into giving out personal information, you can find genuine people and those perceptions of negative outcomes portrayed by the media and society can hinder the possibilities of negative outcomes of an online community. But that could just be my inherent karma thinking outloud. I’m a huge believer in if you’re good to people, they’ll be good to you. I want to believe that everyone is inherently good. That comes to bite me in the ass sometimes, but I digress.

To make the following story a little more tolerable, feel free to listen to the band we mutually obsess over below.

So now I delve into the story of meeting a friend. Let’s call him Allan.

His name is not Allan but let’s call him Allan.

So after attending a Young the Giant concert and being excited about photos I ended up with, I went ahead and posted them, tagging each with the name of the band, venue, etc. etc. etc. After a few days and a few likes, I gained a follower. “[allan]photography”. I could tell he was trying to generate a portfolio online and he had gone to a show of the same band a few weeks before and because of the tags on both our content, we were able to find each other’s work. Allan had sent me a message commenting on a photo and I responded to him with words of praise. Through that initial start, we started a conversation about how we got into photography and what we were studying in school.

His brilliant piece of work. 

My favorite shot of the night. 

As wary as I am about giving out my information online, I determined Allan was a guy that would be willing to help me if I ever needed advice on pursuing photojournalism. As small as this world is, I found out we went to school in the same area and he became friends with my former photo editor through a photojournalism internship based in Chicago. Let’s call him Bob. His name is not Bob. But now it is. Allan and Bob are friends.

Recently, he was shooting an assignment for OC Weekly in the Orange Circle and our paths crossed. I was at the register and through my peripherals I saw a kid with too much camera gear draped around his neck. In the back of my head, I was thinking, “No way. There is no way.” As uncertain and suspicious as I was that this person I met online I was now staring at in the face, the idea of having a similar interest and similar goal in life allowed us to find a solid common ground.

I think he might know my cousin, John. His name really is John.

Small world just got two degrees smaller.

It’s insane to think that only a few years ago this would not have only been frowned upon, but forbidden. One of my favorite SNL sketches talks about internet safety and about creating an online identity on MySpace and I could not agree more. We’re in a weird world.

But over time I was able to take care of myself and realize what I should and shouldn’t engage in online. I think this mindset comes from the idea that you can hide when you’re behind a computer. For someone that doesn’t believe I create a completely different persona online, I am more willing to be “friends” with people that I “meet” online because we came across each other by pure mutual interests. There’s no way there could be any superficial friendships if both people are being who they are.

NOW, this would be even MORE bizarre if this kid and I ended up dating or becoming best friends, etc. etc. etc. But that didn’t happen. And I’m fine with that. We never had any other interest in each other besides the fact that we could help each other with feedback on our photos. Mainly, me gathering inspiration from him and being impressed with his talent. And in return, you know…just saying my work was nice. Because our talent levels are completely at the opposite ends of the spectrum. He is insanely talented and driven to make this his career and life. It’s my hobby. But we both got a friend out of it.

It’s a small world out there.

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