I have spoken to exactly one noder
on the phone, and it was 10 minutes before I drove down to Canal Street
to meet him in person and guide him back to my apartment where he could park his car. I had heard his voice before because he was in town to see a Cure
concert, but he missed me and got only my answering machine. Even the first time we spoke on the phone, it was only to get his location so I could fetch him. It was one of those late night, you're-in-my-general-vicinity-and-I'm-bored
kind of things. I've received one other phone call from him; he was calling from a pay phone in the Army barracks in South Carolina
. He is what could be a person who will become a real friend to me as we build on our conversations, and I've already begun to appreciate him as my friend.
I did this all with very little nervousness, which may be unique, but I don't really think so. I'm the kind of person who has let total strangers crash at my place, people I had sometimes just met that night and needed somewhere to crash. New Orleans lends itself to this kind of rampant and foolish charity, and it has backfired on me only once, so I still allow for it from time to time. The act of talking to someone on the phone who I have been talking to online is nothing new to me either. I have been doing it for at least a year or more as I began spending more time online doing little more than chatting with people in chat rooms, ICQ, and other such online communications. Once I stopped chatting, and started really using the internet to pursue my own interests (that mainly being writing, which is in a sense, a second hand version of chatting), I became more selective with whom I risked a phone call. It was only maybe two people before my noder friend that I called on the phone since then. But still, I never really thought that big a deal of it either way. It's different for everyone.
Since I have had a toll free Canbox voicemail number and have put it on my home node, I have received a handful of messages, all of which I enjoy getting. I seldom get messages at home, so it's a pleasant surprise to hear someone's voice, even if, because of the fact that by calling they know they will leave a message and not have to speak to me directly in addition to having never met me in person, they may not know why they are calling at all. I mean, what is the point? Why do I ask people that I may never meet in person to call me and leave a message? Well, because I asked them to.
I have seen, in my short stint on E2, a lot of efforts on various people's parts, to make this whole thing more real, more tangible, than its electric borders would otherwise allow. And, for the most part, I fully endorse it. I have met three noders in person (albeit briefly) and have found people I could possibly talk to about anything, if the time allowed. They were all far more computer savvy than I ever plan to be, but they were still interesting, intriguing and easy to talk to. There was little or no awkwardness. Considering the wide variety of people on E2 and the motivations that bring them there, there is always a chance that things will go horribly wrong. But really, isn't that the same with everyday people?
It is no surprise that talking to a noder on the phone would be more challenging, since there is one less barrier behind which you can hide those awkward things that make you who you are. You may not know what to say or what to talk about and silence on the screen is easier to deal with. On the screen, you can disappear when you are silent; it's not as brash. But I still think it's not beyond our ability as noders. I've wished one noder happy birthday by calling him on his home number's answering machine (a number he gave me when he left a message on my Canbox) and he was happy to get it. Now, if he wasn't seeing someone and I wasn't seeing someone, it may have been more awkward, but since we are, it wasn't. As long as what you're calling for is simply to talk and possibly make a friend or whatever you want to call it, then go for it.
Perhaps like some of you, I am a kind of loner; I spend most of my time alone, writing. I have friends but they are few and I am content to have them. And I am always open to talking to people but not because I want to get anything from them. I am slowly learning the value of just being able to communicate with others in all the ways people do communicate. I am surprised, when I get on IRC, that people actually want to talk to me or ask me my opinion, and that when I speak, they speak back. Amid all the geek speak that is truly over my head (and I am content that it remains up there, honestly), there are a few people there looking to just talk, to exchange ideas about even the most mundane daily life dribblings, and yet it's worth checking in on. It's worth hearing it sometimes.
I'm not going to tell you which introductions work best. You're all grown ups in some fashion and can handle that on your own. Just don't fear something as simple as a phone call. Don't be afraid to talk, if the opportunity presents itself. Even if you don't say much, it all just starts with words.