AdviceHey, Bonita!

How Should I Prepare for Meeting My Online Friend IRL?

Hey Bonita,

What advice can you give to someone planning on meeting someone whom they met online? This person lives on the other side of the country, and we met in a video game about a year ago. Either they are coming here or I am going there in early 2020. Any advice and safety precautions you can think of are welcome!


Gamer Girl

Hey Gamer Girl,

I can offer plenty of advice. I’m no stranger to meeting people on the internet for friendship or… other endeavors. The first person I ever had sex with was someone I met on AOL Instant Messenger in 1997. I still have a Polaroid of his junk tucked in a book that I can never remember the name of until I inevitably stumble upon it at least once a year when going through my library.

My first bit of advice is the most important piece here: Don’t stay in the same place together. Whoever is visiting should have their own hotel room or Airbnb that they can retreat to in case the vibe is completely wrong or the attraction falters at any point. I once invited a guy I met on LiveJournal (I’m really showing my age here) to stay at my college apartment for four days, and the second I laid eyes on him, I knew he would not be laying a single intimate hand on me. It was the most uncomfortable four days of my life. We hung out, went out to eat and to bars, went to the movies, etc., but it was clear to me that he’d been expecting to get laid. 

Online personas rarely match up with the way we are in person, and what I’d seen as an understandable frustration with the mother of his children came across more like pure misogyny when we spoke about it in person. He wasn’t as relaxed and irreverent as he was online, and he was a bit of a proto-incel when it came to the way he talked about women. Yeah, he didn’t get any booty during his stay, and I deeply resented having a single dad who was a decade older than me lazing around my apartment while I was in class. Never again!

Unless you two are already official and boo’d up, plan to do things besides hanging out with this person while you’re visiting. Hop on Google and find fun stuff that you’d enjoy doing alone in their town, and if they come here, make sure you hip them to cool stuff they can do during the day while you’re at work/class/etc. Personally, I find that it can be a little overwhelming when meeting someone for the first time to constantly have them at your elbow. Try to think of socializing with the person in the way you’d socialize with someone you’ve just started dating. You don’t have to stay all up under them for eight hours a day—unless that’s your style, of course—and that kind of ever-presence might even be a turnoff. Introduce them to your friends so they have other people to converse with at the bar, the rock show or wherever y’all might be hanging out. 

If this person comes here, I really wanna stress that you not give them your home address or bring them to your home until you’ve met and gotten a feel for them. Everything else is up to you. It’s your choice how far you wanna go with this person—whether you just wanna hold hands on the greenway or have a 72-hour tantra session. But I think you need to get a feel for them in person before you trust them with knowing where you sleep. If you go to their town, have your own place to stay in case things go left and you need to get away. Beyond that, use barrier contraception, and have fun!

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