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What You Should Know Before Meeting An Online Friend IRL

One of the most wonderful things about the internet these days is how easy it is to connect with people all over the world. Whether you’re in the same fandoms or met through an online book club, the people you meet online can quickly become a part of your chosen family and change your life forever. As someone who has spent many years on Wattpad and in multiple fandom spaces, I’ve made many online friends over the years and they’re some of the best people I’ve met.

With summer vacation approaching in the next few months, it’s the perfect time to finally break the distance with those online friends you adore so much. However, there are a few things you should know about meeting an online friend in person for the first time and how to prepare beforehand, both to ensure your own safety and to make the most out of the experience.

Meet in public, using your own transportation.

One of the best things you can do when meeting an online friend is meeting them in public. Though the chances are slim, the last thing you want is for the situation to go sideways and for your friend to not be as friendly as you believed. You can pick a coffee shop, a convention if you are in the same fandom, or a concert if you like the same artists. I’ve met all my online friends at concerts for singers we liked and it made the experience more exciting because we were also happy that we were seeing our favorite artist.

In a situation where there are so many things can be out of your control, it’s important that you have at least one thing you can control: transportation. Mental health therapist Amira Martin tells Her Campus, “It’s important to have control over your transportation when meeting someone for the first time. Use your own transportation, whether it’s driving yourself or taking public transportation.” It’s an easy way to ensure your safety because if your internet bestie picked you up in their car and drove you somewhere you’re not familiar with, especially a private setting like their home, there’s a possibility that it could go south quickly.

Stay open-minded, even if it’s awkward.

You may not have thought about this if all your online conversations are easy and smooth, but you will have to deal with the potential for in-person awkwardness. If you’re meeting at a concert or a convention, you can talk about how the event and your history in the fandom to make the time go by faster and allow you to get to know each other better. If you’re just meeting somewhere local, you can also come with icebreakers or topics prepared. I would recommend getting the game We’re Not Really Strangers, because they have different versions based on closeness or relation to you. At the end of the day, though, how awkward meeting your online friend is ultimately depends on the two of you.

It’s important that you remain open-minded to how the meet-up and the conversation could go, too. If there’s anything you want to get to know about your online bestie, feel free to ask, as long as the same goes for anything that they want to ask you. If they’re truly your friend, they’re probably asking with the best of intentions, so let yourselves get to know each other.

Consider bringing another friend.

There are plenty of upsides to bringing an additional IRL friend when the time comes for you to meet an online friend. Not only does it ensure that you stay safe and will have someone to give you an out if you need it, but they can also act as an added buffer to keep things from getting too awkward. I don’t know about you, but I tell my personal friends about the friends I’ve met online and vice versa. If you bring someone else, it could feel like the three of you are meeting for the first time and are all getting to know each other, diffusing some of the intensity that might come with a one-on-one meeting.

Set boundaries early on.

Prior to meeting up with your internet friend, set boundaries for the both of you. The last thing you want is for you to not be on the same page and for plans or boundaries to be misconstrued. Be clear about what you want and what you’re comfortable with, as well as what you’re not such. Jessica Alderson, co-founder of dating app So Syncd, tells Her Campus, “You might want to set a time limit for how long you plan to stay or avoid talking about certain topics.”

Simon Slavchev, the chief assistant at the Faculty of Public Health, also says to “be clear about your comfort level with physical contact and personal information, and stick to those boundaries.” It’s important to tell them at any time if you feel uncomfortable. If someone really is your bestie, whether you know them personally or met them online, they will never make a big deal out of making you uncomfortable and will be respectful of your boundaries.

Let other people know where you’re going to be.

Similar to bringing an additional friend to your meet-up, it’s important to let people in your personal life know where you’re going to be. That way, they’ll be aware and can keep tabs on your location just in case something goes wrong. If you want, you can also share your location on your phone with those people. That will ensure that someone will know where you are at all times and can easily be found and contacted if they believe that something is off or wrong.

On the other hand, if you feel like something is wrong, you can tell whoever you’ve shared your location with to come pick you up. You can also tell your online friend that others are aware of your location so that they know not to do anything suspicious.

Cross-check their identity with social media and video chat.

In a world where pretty much everyone is on pretty much every social media, make sure you can find them on other platforms before you meet up with them. You can do this casually by saying, “Hey, are you on Insta? We should follow each other!” If they seem resistant to sharing their accounts, they may not have been totally honest with you. If you see anything that’s suspicious or doesn’t match up with what they’ve told you, cancel any plans you had of meeting up.

Video chatting with someone is another precursor to meeting them in person. Marriage and family therapist Katie Ziskind tells Her Campus, “Before you meet up in person with someone you’ve met online, take the time to talk on the phone, at least five different times for substantial periods of time.” In addition to that, she says, “Do at least five video chats where you have gotten a tour of their home, seen their pets, and even met their family [or] who they live with.” You may not want to show your house for safety and stalking reasons, but it would be OK for you to share pictures of your pets or your siblings. Calling and video chatting your internet bestie allows you to not only confirm their identity, but get to know them better.

Have an exit plan.

Sure, it’s important to have a plan of when and where you’re going to meet, but it’s also important to have an exit plan. Social worker Steve Carleton tells Her Campus, “Have a plan for how you’re going to get home if the meeting doesn’t go well or if you feel uncomfortable.” Whether you ask IRL friends to help to give you an out or you make up an excuse (such as a public event you’re expected to attend just a couple hours after the meet-up), you have options.

He adds, “Make sure you have enough cash on hand, and your phone is fully charged with an emergency contact number saved in case of any problems.” An exit plan may not be necessary, but it’s important to have one just in case.

When the time comes for you to meet your internet bestie, whether that’s a couple months or a couple years from now, it’s important to do everything you can to ensure your safety and make the most out of the experience. These tips will help ensure that happens. I’m forever grateful for all of my internet besties I’ve broken distance with and can’t wait to meet up with more of them.

Born and raised in Arizona, Kayleigh Shaw is a Her Campus National Writer. She mainly writes for the Culture section, primarily focused on the latest entertainment news, but will occasionally write about life and career, giving advice to a wide array of readers. Outside of Her Campus, Kayleigh was also a part of Rod Pulido’s Street Team for his debut novel, Chasing Pacquiao and completed social media challenges to promote the book. She also hopes to one day write for Screen Rant and Comic Book Resources. where she will continue to use her love of all things pop culture to her advantage. She also graduated from Glendale Community College in May 2022 with an Associate's Degree in English. When Kayleigh's not working on journalism pieces, she can be found writing poems and short stories, reading, watching TikToks, listening to their favorite podcasts, listening and dancing to Sabrina Carpenter and Taylor Swift, watching movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu (while crying over fictional characters and relationships.) She would live in a library and avoid the rest of the world if she could. She also drinks coffee like a Gilmore and often goes down rabbit holes researching their hyper fixations.