I know the internet has been here forever, you’ve met people on the internet ALL the time that turn out to be normal, everyday types that have seamlessly crossed over from internet to IRL (in real life) friends. Old, boring, yawn. People have even met and married via the interwebs and had children and their children are probably already on Facebook (or Google +) trawling around looking for their love match.
But did you find them or did they ‘find’ (aka stalk) you? Were you living in another country with little or no friends and not many options at the time? Is your stalker to real life friend story as special as mine? Maybe it is because all my stories are special – its like MY wedding, or the first time MY baby spoke, walked, passed fluids – because its mine it’s special and I’ll talk about it for as long as I want. Yours might be special too, if you want to write about it I will read your story – maybe, if you make it interesting, but for now I will settle for you reading on.
It starts with an email from a random on Facebook and ends up several months later with me arriving at said random’s house after closing time at the public house with two carloads of people, most of whom they have never met. That’s the measure of a true friend, one who invites you for a drink and you know its fine to bring half a pub with you, without warning! (well I didn’t actually know if it would be OK, but it was – we’re still friends so yay)
It was around the time of what I call the ‘great Aussie twitter scandal’ of the winter of 2010. A gripping saga I was glued to from my seat in far off South Africa. A person – who can’t be named (because I genuinely don’t know her real name) had been posing on Twitter as a cancer sufferer and befriending people there and the natural extension of that for those living close by – in real life. She had been to their houses, posed for Twitpics and from what I understand was slowly working her way around to seeking monetary assistance for future medical procedures. It was hard to keep up, different time zone and all and just a sideline watcher really. I came across her one day when my stream was filled with special wishes and good thoughts for her as she lay apparently dying in hospital and her ‘friend’ who had rushed from the US to be with her was tweeting updates. Luckily she survived and went on to befriend a whole range of seemingly lovely tweeple (people on twitter – keep up) etc etc. But watch out young players – cyberspace is a mean and nasty place and people can *shock & horror* lie about who they really are. She did lie about it and a lot of people got hurt in the process but are probably slightly wiser for it – as I am. I was all – noone is going to fool me like that.
So when I got an email to my Facebook account – which is actually pretty hard to find for an amateur like me – I mean all my privacy settings are set exactly like Mark Zuckerberg told me. I was very suspicious about the motives of such a person wanting to befriend me just because they happened to *say* they were a fellow lonely expat in Durban. Who were they? Why were they using Facebook and not Twitter (that was back when I had the rule of IRL friends only on FB – what was I thinking)? Why had they read all my blog posts and referred to them in a humorous ego-stroking manner in their email? Were they looking for a kidney to sell on the black market?
It seems these people were fairly switched on stalkers and had created a whole backstory which basically was a blog that went back over two years. Clever huh? Their blog also had many many photos of this couple and feedback from people who seemingly knew them in real life and had for years, they even had their parents on there. As perfect a cover for kidney-stealing randoms I ever saw.
Proceed with caution was the order of the day. I was after all living in a country where I wasn’t fully at home yet – all my flesh and blood type friends who didn’t dabble too much in the online world thought the whole thing was too out there and I had best just leave it alone. However, I was also desperately seeking friends and these ones did know how to use the internet, my kind of people. So I set this person up as a friend on Facebook – obviously with various privacy settings so they couldn’t see photos of my kids etc as thats obviously the sensible thing to do. Of course I did the whole thing wrong and the next email said something along the lines of, I have been looking around your fb page, your kids are gorgeous. Obviously I had to meet these people as soon as possible to determine whether they were the real deal, as well as disabuse them of their incorrect assumptions regarding the small people.
We had to meet in a public place, where others knew I would be in case of emergency exit or kidnap situation, joking on the kidnap – maybe. Anyway a perfect opportunity threw itself our way when we both realised we would be attending the Durban July – Durban’s answer to the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne all in one day. We exchanged phone numbers and text messages and promised to arrange to meet up. The Durban July is quite a lively social occasion and we were being hosted in a marquee by a work connection of my husband. Free flowing champagne from 10am and a few hours and about 20 text messages later I was falling over the railing of our enclosure waving my arms wildly screaming ‘Liz, Liz – over here’ at a girl in a bright orange dress. It’s a moment that she may have regretted months later when I arrived at 1 am with 10 people and not a bottle between us at her house but she and Johnny G diverted their path into ours and a beautiful wine laden friendship was born. We extended the friendship to pineapple martinis a couple of weeks later when we had them over to dinner at our house to introduce them to some other friends. Thinking back that’s when we could have lost the kidneys – all of us, and none of us would remember, but it seems more likely to have been a liver damage situation.
For this year’s Durban July we travelled together by taxi and toasted our Stalkee-versary en route with champagne.
As a tribute to my very special friendship with my former stalker-but-not-really I am including my very first photo in a post. It is the wine glass name I am given when I attend (invited) a function at their house.
(Now I have worked out how to do photos they may appear more often – who knows?)