No Off Season

31 January, 2018

It's been a while coming but HAPPY 2018! While it's been quiet on the blog, I've been occasionally Instagramming my adventures and enjoyment of Californian sunshine and cycling. Even though micro-blogging on social media allows me to post a photo and snippet of the content, it doesn't necessarily allow me to share the story behind them which is why I love coming back to blogging after a stint of being "off-line" during the "off-season". However, it's not been much of an off-season while cycling in California. While there is so much I want to share about my adventures cycling in the West Coast, not all can be captured in a social media post or tweet. 

Once again, I'm spending another winter escaping New York winter in California. While I'm here for the next month, I am planning my wedding and cycling as much as my heart desires. Being that CA is my home state, there are family and friends to meet and catch up with, only this time, it's been all about meeting cycling Instagram friends IRL (in real life). Being a blogger, I've always loved meeting followers and people I follow since online life is so different from real life. Meeting online friends in real life has been a practice of making real connections with like minded women in cycling which I have found that there is something to be said about in real life meetings.
Call me naive, but meeting online cycling friends has been far from being the bottomless repository of oddballs and potential serial killers! The internet is full of lively minded, like-minded engaging people – for the first time in history I believe we're lucky enough to choose friends not by location or luck, but by pinpointing people with amazingly similar interests, lifestyles, matching politics, senses of humor, and passionate feelings about the most infinitesimally tiny thing we call our cycling community. The online cycling friends I have now might be spread wide, geographically, but I'm closer to them than anyone I went to school with, by about a million miles.

For me, and people like me who might be a little shy or socially awkward – moving conversations and friendships from the net to a coffee shop table is a much more organic, normal process than people who spend less time online might expect.
Depending on the root of the friendship, on where the conversation started, the benefit is clear – you cut out the tedium of small talk. What could be better? The nice thing is that there's no trying to slowly work out whether you think similarly or have the same kinds of life experience, or whether you really do have enough in common to sustain the conversation – all that is done by the time you meet because you've read their comments or their emails or their blog. You know where they stand on certain things, what they care about and just who they are – and so when you actually meet them, it's like you've known them a year or your whole life already because all the small stuff is already out of the way, months of small talk replaced by the fact that online friendships are, essentially, self-selecting.
Whenever this topic of meeting Instagram friends IRL crops up in conversation, I have seen people express these types of encounters with an air of disdain. The sense of shock surprises me, as if people on the internet were not "real" at all. Certainly, people play a character online quite often – they'll be more confident, more erudite, or, depending on the site, more argumentative version of their real selves – but what's the alternative? What's the thing that's so much better than making friends in a virtual world? Meeting people at work? Yes perhaps, but for many, a professional distance between their work selves and their social selves is necessary, and they just don't want to spend that much time with people they work with – especially with their guard down. Is it better to meet friends in pubs? While drunk? Are they really much more themselves in that state than in the words through which they present themselves online?
There are always stories buzzing around about "man runs off with the woman he met on Second Life" or people who meet their soulmate online and end up with their head in someone's freezer – but affairs are affairs. People are people are people – by making friends online, you're simply speeding through the whole process, bypassing shyness and getting rid of the social awkwardness that comes with trying to make a friend out of a stranger.

Is it really that odd that we're increasingly converting virtual cycling friends to real, physically pokable ones as well as the other way around? Frankly, I now think it's weird to do much else. Call me naive, call me a social misfit, I don't care. Virtual cycling friends make the best real friends. 

Being that I live a life of travel and work from home, meeting online friends in real life is a great way to getting out and letting the world teach me a little bit. From these online cycling ladies I've recently met, I've learned so much about their views on women's cycling and community than I have online that the rest of the world does not get to hear. One other thing I've learned is that while sharing our stories online is important to inspire more women to cycle, it's also important that we make time to connect with each other in real life. 

Thank you Alex of Jane and Her Joe, Melissa Planner at LBSU, Ginger of Machines For Freedom, and Yuliana of Bike California for making the time to meet up for a ride and chat about the cycling world.

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