The pic has glasses, the person doesn't. The pic looks
thoughtful and pensive but the person shoots from the hip.
A funny thing happened to me the other day. Not funny haha, but funny
unusual. I met up with someone face-to-face.
Why was this funny? Because it was a person I'd normally be
interacting with online. Not In Real Life (IRL). Then only this
morning it happened again with someone else. Another IRL meeting. I
can often go for months, sometimes even years, without ever meeting
any of my online students, colleagues or allies IRL. It's almost
always with a URL.
So, how was it? A little weird, to be honest. In the first meet-up
the profile pic was spot on. Looks like it could've been taken
yesterday, which fed my belief that I actually knew this person. Then
they opened their mouth and real words came out in a high pitched and
squeaky tone that made me think of a chipmunk on helium. I think I did
a jaw-drop as my brain struggled to make the connection work. Online
this person was witty and wise. In person, they were slightly abrupt
and terse (and so squeaky!). It dawned on me that this is probably
someone who writes, re-writes, checks, re-checks and then posts,
because the first words out verbally certainly needed editing.
The second meet-up was also a contradiction. The URL persona was a
better match for the IRL person, but the profile pic had me fooled.
What was long, blonde and flowing is now shoulder length with a
definite reddish hue. The pic has glasses, the person doesn't. The pic
looks thoughtful and pensive but the person shoots from the hip. Don't
get me wrong – I like this person both on and off the screen, even
though we've only just really met. It just took me a few moments to
make the connection work in my head. But overall it was good.
It's happened to me before, now I think about it. I teach online. I
chose a profile pic that was okay at the time and got busy with the
job of teaching. I try to meet or talk with all of my students before
we go online, but there are a couple who come in part way through and
miss the initial personal introduction. I remember one Saturday I knew
some of my online students were attending a local workshop at a TAFE
campus nearby, so I called in to see them. "I didn't
recognise you!" one of them said to me. I wasn't sure if
it was a compliment or a criticism.
Graduation is another collision of IRL and URL. Last graduation I met
with students I've been online with for 18 months and never actually
met in person. Until they were leaving. My students love meeting their
facilitators IRL, but more than once I was told; "Hang on a
minute… is that you? You're nothing like your picture!"
Online, you really can get to feel that you know someone. The
teachers on our program frequently report that they have a good
understanding and connection with students, and I believe them because
I feel that connection with my students too. Just occasionally there
is an odd discourse between what we think we know or have assumed and