Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Howdy, stranger

I'm not usually one to approach complete strangers in public and strike up a conversation, but since we've been here in Provo I've been tempted a few times to do just that.

One time was while we were participating in outdoor recreation hour with the Arabic students. We happened to be playing right outside the building on campus where I used to teach LSAT prep classes. I got to feeling pretty nostalgic about it - that was a job I really enjoyed, and it paid amazingly well (especially for Provo), and my students were always dedicated and attentive and serious, and I got free donuts every Saturday...

As I was reminiscing, I realized that we were even playing outside the building at the exact day and time I used to teach. It was just a few moments later that I noticed people walking in the building with LSAT prep materials in hand. I don't know who teaches it now, but apparently they still hold the class at the same time at the same place.

All the people walking in looked so pert and smart. I had the sudden urge to pull one of them aside and say, "yeah, I used to teach your class. I may be covered in sidewalk chalk dust and baby snot right now, and wearing the equivalent of a t-shirt and jeans, and I have a MomChop AND it's pulled back into a ponytail, but back in the day, I used to teach your class."

It's probably a good thing I didn't do it, though, right?

However, I'm not so sure I shouldn't have approached this next person. We were at Storytime at the library and one of the little kids looked so familiar to me. It took me a few minutes to figure out that while I'd never met her in real life, I read her aunt's blog on a regular basis. I don't know her aunt, either, but she's blogged about her niece enough times that I recognized her when I saw her. Weird, I know. My dilemma was whether or not I should say something in casual conversation with the girl's mom (who the blogger has also written about before).

What do you think? Would that have been totally weird? I can't decide if it would have freaked the mom out or if she would have taken it as the compliment to her sister the blogger I meant it to be. In my world, if someone recognized me from my blog, that would just about make my year. Tom Zoellner recognized me when I showed up at his book presentation, and although I guess that was technically because of my blog, he knew I was going to be there so I don't know that it counts.

All of this brings up the wider issue of whether/how we should disclose to others - strangers or friends - that we read their blog. I know that a few times in my experience, I've gotten to know someone through their blog better than I do in person (though I usually catch up in real life eventually) (usually). I've heard of other people reading up on the blog of someone they are potentially interested in romantically, and then not telling them that they did so, even feigning surprise and interest when the person later tells them things they already know from blog-stalking.

Reading the blogs of strangers or even friends you just don't see that often also leads to the strange phenomenon of feeling all caught-up when you do finally meet or see each other again in person. I think it's an odd feeling, but a good kind of odd.

What do you think about all this? Should I start talking to strangers more often? And what are the rules of etiquette when blogging intersects with real life?


AmandaStretch said...

I think I know which blogger's niece you are referring to, and I bet they would have laughed it off. One of her other readers and I recognized each other from our comments and profile pictures in the temple of all places. Now we love sharing that as our "how we met" story.

Do you read Singing Cicada? I ran into not her, but her parents, since I live near DC (they're in Baltimore). Turns out that her dad was in my brother's mission presidency (my brother served part of his mission in Baltimore). I didn't say anything to them at the time, but I emailed her (getting the link off her page) and told her the story. We both had a good laugh.

When I have friends tell me they read my blog, I love it, and I wouldn't mind having a blog stalker (provided they are cool and not sketchy) introduce themselves in person. Most bloggers I read who have had people recognize them are usually cool it. More cool with the person saying hi and introducing themselves than random glances of recognition but no conversation (see a recent CJane post for that story). You can bet that if ever I run into you, I'll say hi. :)

JosephJ said...

As one with few social inhibitions anyway, my opinion might not count for much. Jen tries to keep me tame. I once mentioned to a friend of Jen's that I thought her blog post about a 'tough day with the kids' was pretty clever. Then I thought to myself, I wonder if that is embarrassing to her? Then I came to the reality that she POSTED IT IN THE PUBLIC FORUM. Fair game for me to bring up.

As long as context is provided, and some level of sensitivity is maintained, I'm of the opinion that anyone can talk to anyone. Citing facts about someone you don't know to them could be creepy.

p.s. Have you realized that by the above disclosure, you are now one of "those people" who returns to the Y and wants to tell people about the good ole' days? You didn't also want to talk about bowling at the wilky did you?

Liz Johnson said...

I think that it's fine and normal and even appreciated if you mention that you read somebody's blog, if you're just reading for fun and you enjoy it. If you're creepy and/or stalking somebody, then you probably have bigger problems than whether or not to talk to somebody about their blog.

Pretending not to know information because you're afraid of being (possibly correctly) identified as a stalker? Weird.

Nancy said...

My mother-in-law said hi to one of my friends who blogs about her baby using a pseudonym. And my friend was totally cool about it. Once they know how you know them, it's usually okay.

I think that the online presence is becoming more of a reality all the time. Like you say, you feel all caught up, all the time.

The Ensign's said...

I, personally, would have been a little weirded out. That could be due to the type of blogger I am. However, I dont think you would feel the same way due to how you blog.I think it depends.

Natchel said...

Eh I'm not big on stranger talks...I'm have pretty bad stage fright, even when I'm not on stage. I don't find myself clever enough to carry on an impromptu conversation with someone where I haven't been able to plan out what I'm going to say...
I just linked to this post on almost the same topic!

Susanne said...

I think it would be cool to meet someone from a blog especially if it were in a public place like that and the person looked respectable.

Like you do. :)

As for the other...I would be a bit shy to do that most days. Reminding them of my "olden days" ranks up there with hearing "I walked to school uphill both ways in the snow when I was your age." *yawn* Of course your version - with the MomChop mention, no less - would likely be highly entertaining to that "pert and smart" crowd.

I talk to strangers sometimes...sometimes not. It really depends on my mood, the other person's body language AND whether I have time or the interest. I once talked to a Chinese man in NYC on the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. I tried to make eye contact with one of them (it was a large group), but they must not make eye contact much in their culture. (Plus it's not like they weren't trying to see Lady Liberty.) Finally there was a man about my height and I caught his eye, smiled and struck up a conversation. Then he decided to practice his English on me. :)


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