I've been connected professionally for about 3 years now, but personally I've been connected for almost 6. In October of 2007 I joined Weight Watchers' online program and timidly ventured out onto the message boards for the support of people who were on the same journey I was ready to embark upon. Remarkably, I connected with 6 ladies from across the country, and we supported each other, from afar, as we all worked to develop healthy habits. While we all eventually moved on from Weight Watchers, we continued to connect via email and now through Facebook.
Our little cross country gang: from Washington, Illinois, Arkansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maine, have become a support for much more than weight loss. Deaths of parents, health scares, job changes, divorces, kid issues - while we're not right down the street, we've been shoulders to cry on and the arms that support. We've also celebrated - graduations, new jobs, engagements, weddings! Even though we "barely know" each other, according to some, these fabulous ladies are some of my best buds.
Over the last few years I had met 3 of my friends, those from Maine, Connecticut, and Louisiana, but I REALLY wanted to meet my friend Kim, who lives in Washington. But that's an expensive plane ticket from PA so I just kept thinking about how we might make our meeting happen. Then my hubby and I were able to book a trip to Las Vegas for the world pet association trade show. When I told Kim about it her first words were, "I'm so there!" And sure enough she make it happen!
You'd think there would have been some nerves, but no. Kim's sister asked if she had any worries about me being a crazy slasher, and she said nope. We've talked so long and about so many things, it really felt like I was meeting an old friend I hadn't seen since elementary school. And that's exactly what it was. From the moment she walked into the hotel lobby there were squeals and hugs and there wasn't a single moment of awkwardness. Our beautiful friendship, built solely online, was truer than some I've had with people I've only known face-to-face. We're already making plans for our next visits to our home states - most definitely a priority now - and even more Skyped and Hangouts are also in our future.
So if you've ever wondered, "Should I put myself out there online? What's in it for me if I get connected?" my answer to you is relationships. Sure you may learn some new professional tips and tricks, but the people you will meet and friends you will make will be far more lasting and impactful.