An Online Turned Offline Encounter

A few days back, I was able to have the great pleasure of meeting Cydney Alexis over at Material Lives in person. The way that we first met on the internet was quite fascinating.

Cydney works over at the Admissions department in the University of Madison-Wisconsin, and she happened to have a photo intern working for her who heard about my street photography from a photography professor. Cydney’s intern then went to my site and liked the template that I was using, and suggested to Cydney that they use a similar style for their blog. Cydney then checked out my photography, and enjoyed my images, and emailed me inquiring about how much I charged for my prints. I still have the email stored in my Gmail account:

Thu, Jul 30, 2009

Eric–

I am sure I cannot afford one of your photographs, but I thought I’d inquire anyway–how much do you tend to sell them for? They are just gorgeous.

Best,

Cydney

Upon hearing such kind work about my photography, I was quite touched and offered to send her a few prints (free of charge). After sending her the images, she was extremely gracious and after that we hit it off. We found out that both of us had interests in audiobooks, photography, as well as blogging. She recommended me a bunch of books, one of them being Kafka on the Shore, written by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Over the year, we were able to keep in touch via our blogs as well as through email.

This summer my girlfriend Cindy went to the University of Madison-Wisconsin to take a Vietnamese-intensive program called SEASSI for the summer. I promised her that I would visit, and before I left Cydney came to mind. I wasn’t 100% whether Cydney was in Madison or some other city, so I shot her a message and got in contact with her. After confirming that she indeed was in Madison, we arranged to meet in person (for the first time) sometime during the week.

After exchanging phone numbers, we arranged to have dinner together, along with Cindy and another friend. We met up and ended up eating at Dotty’s Dumplings, one of the favorite local restaurants. Over some amazing fried cheese curds, chili-cheese fries, and hamburgers, we talked for the first time in person and had a wonderful time, grabbing some amazing Gelato afterwards.

I recall when I told my other friends that I was going to meet a friend that I only knew online, they gave me curious looks. I have to admit, there have been times that I have met people online in the “real world” and was quite shocked that their offline persona was the exact opposite of their online persona. Not only that, but some people even had deceiving online profile pictures which looked nothing like themselves in real life.

The thought of two people meeting perchance via the internet, nearly half a country apart and meeting in person and eating dinner together is quite an unusual encounter. Such things would have never been possible even a few decades ago. However Cydney’s and my online turned offline encounter is a true testament on how the internet is closing the geographical gap in the world and bringing people closer together.

Also in the case of Cydney and I, meeting in person for the first time was quite natural and not awkward at all. I had never seen a clear photo of Cydney, and wasn’t 100% sure what she exactly looked like. Upon meeting her in person, I found out that she dressed quite trendy, and even rocked a sweet tattoo on her shoulder. Also while talking in person, it was interesting that we had so much to talk about, when referring to one another’s lives via our blogs or based on the comments we would leave one another. I felt that I grew to know her quite well on the internet, and nothing about her life truly caught me off guard when meeting her offline.

However at the same time, I still feel that it is important to make the point that online interaction could never replace offline interaction. Even though I did know a great deal about Cydney through the internet, the way in which we were able to interact in real life brought an entirely new type of energy. Through the laughs, tasty food, and good conversation we were able to connect to an extent which could never be possibly recreated online. However with the permeation of online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft, The Sims Online, as well as Second Life, how close can online interaction replicate offline interaction?

Anyways, I still have a few days left in Wisconsin and I should be able to meet Cydney at least once more. And sorry Cydney– I haven’t been able to upload our photos yet, hopefully they will be up soon!

edit: here are the photos

Me and Cydney
Me and Cydney
Deep Fried Cheese Curds--mmmmmm
Deep Fried Cheese Curds--mmmmmm
Chili Cheese Fries
Chili Cheese Fries
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6 thoughts on “An Online Turned Offline Encounter”

  1. Eric, I am so touched, and I was waiting to write a similar post until I got my hands on your photograph(s) of us. Please send/post when you can!

    It was so great to finally put a face with the Internet persona and work. I knew from your blog posts and general attitude about life and photography that you’d be pretty similar in person to the man you project online. I am continually inspired not only by your work, but with your humility & graciousness, with others and with the sharing of your work and ideas.

    I must say, I was also inspired by the way in which you and Cindy talk about each other and your work, the way you seem to encourage each other to travel, to learn new things, and to see the world. I really do hope the two of you come to Wisconsin for graduate school!

  2. eric,

    of all the things you mentioned in this post, what stood out to me is your generosity when it came to divulging the price of your photos.

    the fact that you give so willingly of your gifts, from the knowledge behind the works to the works themselves, i feel is what truly characterizes the passion you have for your work.

    not only that, but it also reminds the rest of us about what is important in life, such as that passion and that generosity. I have no doubt in my mind that your willingness to share your gift/s is the reason that God continues to bless you with those gifts.

    1. Hey Samiah– reading your comment made my day. Seriously. I am flattered by what you have to say about myself and my passion for photography. I just hope that I don’t lose goal of my sight of keeping my photography “Open Source” while contributing my energy and enthusiasm for photography for others to enjoy as well.

      And you definitely have a lot of love to give as well Samiah 🙂 Let’s have lunch sometime!

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