Turning Online Friends into Real Life BFFs

The Bloggess Jenny Lawson, Owning PInk's Lissa Rankin, and BlogHer Co-Founder Jory Des Jardins

When I attended the BlogHer 2010 conference last weekend, I was struck by the power of what happens when you gather women (and few token men) together with the intention of supporting each other. My friend Jory Des Jardins is one of the founders of BlogHer.com, and I was SO proud to see her there, gloriously pregnant and radiant with her passion for the yearly estrogen fest of their annual conference. When we first met and she was describing to me what inspired she and her co-founders Lisa Stone and Elisa Camahort Page to launch BlogHer, I didn’t quite get it. Now, after attending the conference, I do. It’s all about building community, empowering women to stand behind and uplift each other, raising the decibels of our voices, and linking arm and arm as we beeline towards our dreams.

New friends!

We spent much of the conference allowing our bodies to catch up with what our minds already knew of each other. Many of us had heard of each other before. Many had not. But by the end, we had a host of new friends. We danced together. We got henna tattoos together. We debated and listened and cheered each other on. We typed away on our laptops. We tweeted so much we crashed Twitter. But most importantly, we exchanged cards, gave hugs, took pictures, and brought our online presence into real life, where we inter

It’s easy these days to convince yourself that because you have online friends, you’re not lonely. When you have 50,000 Twitter followers and 3,000 Facebook friends, surely -- you’re loved. After all, people shout out at you. They #FollowFriday you. They comment on your status updates and post responses to your blog posts. So you have friends, right?

And yes, of course you have friends. The women at BlogHer are your friends. We at Owning Pink are your friends. We love you and care what happens to you. When you hurt, we hurt. When you rejoice, we celebrate. When you succeed, we jump for joy. But it’s not the same as a real, live, warm-bodied hug and the opportunity to gaze into the eyes of another human being with your magical eyes.

The BlogHer conference gave us this.  Many of us knew each other from Twitter and Owning Pink and BlogHer and Facebook -- but our bodies had never shared a physical plane. At the conference, we got to touch, to absorb each other’s energies, to connect -- in real life, which, as it turns out, is oh-so-important.

Does the web fill that need?

Many use the web as a way to fill a need, but it only pseudo-fills the need. A sweet comment on the web will never replace an arm around our neck and a live person who simply listens. It’s not the same as lunch outside with a friend on a sunny day. Or a slumber party with your girlfriends. Or a quiet hike in the redwoods together.

Touch is just so important to health -- it's been proven over and over -- and you just can't replace it on the internet. I once read a great book called 4 Arguments for the Elimination of Television, and one of the arguments is that people think they're having an experience because they see it on TV. So you have this whole generation of people who think they know the Serengeti because they've seen it on the Discovery channel, but in truth, they've never actually been there. They’ve never really seen a the Amazon River but they think they have. It's a pseudo-experience that may even prevent them from seeking out the real thing because they've already "experienced" it.

Perhaps the internet is doing the same sort of thing. The thinking goes, "Because I have Twitter followers, I have 'friends' and don't need to reach out here in my local community." That's why IRL (an acronym I just learned -- "in real life") get-togethers like the BlogHer conference are so important. We can turn our online connections into real friends.

Pussy Summit

Christine Bronstein, who founded A Band of Wives (an online community of woman who sponsored the Owning Pink team’s attendence at the BlogHer conference), knows all about this. She began her community after giving birth, when postpartum depression left her feeling alone. She told her husband Phil Bronstein that she needed a wife to help take care of her, and A Band of Wives was formed. (Chris wrote about why all women need wives here.) But Chris knows that it’s not enough to meet online. Her community is all about getting women together in real life -- to salsa dance, to have lunch, to take walks, to pole dance, to raise money for good causes -- but mostly to support, love, and empower each other.

Chris inspires me. We’ve build such a robust community at Owning Pink, but I want to meet you all IRL (in real life)!  I’m not alone in feeling this way. There are many other women who have built community around sisterhood. Regena Thomashauer (Mama Gena) and I met in New York and discussed how we might band together to bring women together by collaborating to host a Pussy Summit in San Francisco. Can’t you just see it? We’d bring our communities together -- and invite the other Pussy Powers to bring theirs as well. We’d gather women -- in real life -- with the intention of bonding, loving, supporting, networking, empowering, and translating online connections into real life friendships. I find it thrilling. After all, collectively, we can build beautiful alliances if only we collaborate, rather than compete.

So stay tuned. Things are a-cooking.

How can you do this more in your own life? How can you translate your online connections into real life friendships? Do you feel like hosting a Pink Posse salon in your neck of the woods? Is it time for a Tweet Up? Will you come to the BlogHer 2011 conference in San Diego? (I’ll be there for sure!) Will you join us for  the Pussy Summit? How do you translate your online connections into real, live hugs?

Pussy powers -- activate!

Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).