This post was originally published on the now-retired Make & Meaning blog on March 27th, 2010.

For years, I’ve made friends online. You probably make friends online, too. In the beginning, there were jokes (and sometimes sincere concern) about axe murderers and crazy stalkers and old men pretending to be young women. It’s amazing how much changes in just a few years. Sure, there’s still (sometimes hysterical) concern about child predators online, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about adults befriending adults they’ve never met in person before.

We blog or comment or belong to forums or online groups because we enjoy what we gain by doing so. We feel understood or valued for our ideas or we enjoy the virtual company of others or the solitary inspiration. Ten years ago, or even five, many people would wonder aloud to us – without even trying to hide their scorn – whether we had a life.

Not so anymore.

Last year I went to Portland, OR, for a long weekend, and it wasn’t until the day I got on the train that I realized I’d never met anyone I was going to see (except I’d briefly been introduced to one person years earlier). I’d never even met Diane, who was kind enough to invite me stay at her place.

Know how Diane and I became friends? Not through crafts, specifically. I mean, we’d read each others blogs and known what the other was up to, but we became friends because we discovered we’re both Joss Whedon fans. It was sci-fi and television that got us chatting more, and it was the friendship that grew from our chats that led to me sleeping on her couch last year. We met because of crafts, chatted because of sci-fi fan-girl hilarity, and then some other thing took over.

See, there’s chemistry in online interactions (or there isn’t) just like there’s chemistry in in-person friendships (or there isn’t). There’s just no difference at all in that respect.

I think we’ve all felt it, haven’t we?

Sometimes someone leaves a comment or posts on a forum or sends you an email out of the blue, and rather than just taking note of it and responding, it grips you. You think, “This is someone I want to chat with more.” It’s the same thing that happens at a dinner party sometimes. There’s that person at the other end of the table you think is just so interesting, you want to talk with them more. Maybe you’ll ask them to grab a coffee sometime.

Back when I was editing CrochetMe.com when it was an online magazine, I got an email from a perfect stranger offering to help with tech editing. I was desperate for help, but I’d passed on other offers because they just didn’t seem right. And I needed to work with someone right. I let the offer sit in my inbox for a long time because I was nervous about bringing someone into my crazy world, let alone someone I’d never met, but in the end I trusted my gut. There was just something about that email that made me think its writer was right. And she was. Julie and I ended up working together for years on all sorts of projects, and we’ve hung out in person a few times and had a great time.

This sort of chemistry must be at play in online dating, right? In the beginning, online dating was derided just like any other sort of online friend-making, except with more axe-murderer or crazy-stalker comments. But now we’ve all been to weddings of people who met online, or we met our own partner online.

I don’t have much more of a point. I just wanted to bring up online chemistry. Obviously, it can’t involve pheromones or anything, like in-person chemistry can. But I think it’s real. And I think it has a similar effect on our friend-making as in-person chemistry. Every so often, we find someone or a group of people that we share more than a passion for craft with. We share that intangible chemistry that could potentially grow into great friendship. Real friendship, whether we’re lucky enough to get to meet in person or not.

It’s magic, that chemistry, isn’t it?


Unfortunately, all comments were lost when Make & Meaning was taken down. Don’t hesitate to repeat yourself here, or to join in on the new conversation!