One of the best things about selling on Etsy is that I've made some amazing new friends. We chat every day, tell each other our intimate secrets, bitch about life's bumpy spots, give each other support in difficult times, and just generally keep each other in stitches laughing. We fix each other breakfast and are always ready to bring out the drink cart and mix a few mojitos or margaritas. We've never met in meatspace (yes, I know - it's a gross term, but I really like it), but in a short couple of months, we've become fast friends.
It's almost certain that in real life we would never have met. We live all over the country, on all three coasts. We range in age from mid-twenties to mid-fifties. Our non-Etsy jobs include teaching (everything from kindergarten to college), birthing, working in industry, free-lancing, sales, and full-time crafting. Some of us have children, some want children someday, others are happily child-free and intend to remain so. I couldn't even begin to guess at the differences in our income levels, but I suspect it's great. Some of us are straight, some are gay, but we're all attached to partners.
We met in the Etsy forums and bonded, at least partly, because most of us were new to the site at roughly the same time. We had similar questions and were feeling very much like the new kid at school: no one to sit with in the cafeteria, ignored by the cool kids, wondering what the heck we were doing there. In particular, we'd all had the experience of posting in threads and then having them die -- our presence in the thread apparently rendered it uninteresting, no matter how interesting it had been before! Thus, we dubbed ourselves "Thread Killers" and embraced our marginal status. Later we discovered another power: invisiposting. You post in a thread and it doesn't die, but there's no acknowledgment from anyone else that you've posted. We started a Support Group in the Etsy forums months ago and it's still going strong. Occasionally new folks wander in and we make them welcome. At the moment our virtual lair holds a rollerskating rink, disco ball, hot tub, slip'n'slide, bar, ficus tree, and deck with deck chairs.
We also chat privately and it's this private lair that's become such a haven. It's like being at home with your closest friends. We curse like sailors, make ridiculous puns, oooohhh and aaahhh like pre-pubescent girls over cute things, and trash-talk like pro soccer players. We also show each other our work and I, at least, find the comments of my e-friends literally inspiring.
Lately I've been thinking that it would be great fun to have a real-life meeting of the League of Extraordinary Threadkillers. Maybe we could all meet someplace in the middle, like Kansas, for a weekend. I doubt such a grand convocation will ever take place - too many commitments in too many places, too many complicated schedules. And, as much as I'd like to meet my e-friends for real, I worry that it might not be a good idea. What if we're not who/what we seem to be? A couple of months ago my partner said, "You don't know that these people are who they say they are. One of them could be a 14-year-old boy!" True enough, but I doubt that kind of deep impersonation is going on. No, I think my e-friends are who they say they are. But this kind of digital communication isn't broadband: only a narrow stream of information gets through. What if, once they see the whole package that is me, they found that they didn't like me? What if I found that I didn't like one of them? It would be devastating and would probably be the end of the group.
How long can e-friendships last if they remain e-friendships? Are e-friendships doomed if they materialize in meatspace? Stay tuned for further developments.