I love how the relationships I form online are pretty much exactly the same as the relationships I form offline (even before the internet). It begins with someone appearing here and there. They retweet me, @ me and are included in some of my friends' conversations. At first, I don't notice because I'm pre-occupied with conversations with current group of friends, but after a while I start to think, "Hmmmm, who is this person?" and I pay more attention. I start conversing back, looking deeper into his/her profile. Maybe even Googling him/her.
Then we get the chance to really connect - either through a deeper conversation or I start following him/her and find out little nuances about him/her that connect me. She is a startup entrepreneur and a mom. He went through a rough divorce last year. She likes to surf. He listens to R&B. I start to comment back. We connect more and more. Then the next thing you know, we interact like old friends, joking around, supporting one another through tough days and maybe even finally meeting up when given the chance.
This is much like how people enter our lives offline. They show up at events or coffee shops or other public spaces where at first you don't notice them. Then they become familiar (a similar story is actually told in Julien and Chris' Trust Agents) and you start asking, "Hey, who is that guy/gal?" and the interaction begins until you are hanging out for beers on a Friday afternoon on the patio talking about the crappy week you had.
But I really love that what the internet HAS changed is that the whole world is my coffee shop and/or event. I can grow a rapport with someone sight unseen (except for an avatar). As Bruce Sterling once said, "National borders, they're like speed bumps." I've met people in person (usually at SXSW) that I've 'known' for years online. And there is no awkwardness about it. It's like we've been hanging out in person for that whole time. I can't wait to see people like Elizabeth Weinstein and Jorge Jaime in person. I've been interacting with both of them online for a while and I bet there will be hugs and squeals from minute 0.
Like any relationship, it's taken time to get to that point, but I feel like I know them as well as any of my new friends offline. And though I'm a little unsure as to what my point was when I started this post, I just wanted to say that I'm excited about the sprouts of relationships that I have with all of you and can't wait to see them emerge organically over the next few years.