Ever met an online friend in real life and felt you were meeting a completely different person - an impostor? This happens almost 9 out of 10 times with friends you meet off the net or phone and we are never able to explain to ourselves why we feel oddly different when it's the same person. Even though you've seen his/her pictures, you feel different. This also ends up ruining the friendship sometimes. We feel guilty for feeling that way and are not able to understand why.
Last night, I was talking to a friend about how friendships develop and how we have sets of friends- college friends, work friends, bus friends, train friends, phone friends, chat friends, blog friends etc. This led to a whole different discussion about how different phone friends or chat friends can be in real life.
We gave it a lot of thought (one of the consequences of having a lot of free time- starting random discussions and then attempting at drawing conclusions out of them! :P) and figured why we feel this way. When we talk to someone on the phone or online, we make a mental picture of them- a mental image of their personality . We unknowingly create a definition of the person's image. We might have seen the person in photos but we tend to create a different image of his/her personality. This image becomes stronger as we talk to the person more and more. So, when we finally meet the person in real life, and if the looks of the person don't match our imagination of his/her personality, we feel disappointed. We feel like we've met an impostor. It all happens because we don't get what we think we will. We don't feel the same attachment to the person and that makes us feel guilty.
It also happens when we've just been introduced to someone in person once or twice but the friendship has developed fully through some other media.
It's just like going to watch a movie based on the novel after having read the novel. Most of the time, we end up feeling dissatisfied with the movie- why? It's not only because the movie misses out on most of the details. It's mainly because when we read a novel, we build up our own characters, give them their unique personalities and that fits well in the story. When we don't get the same on screen, we feel disheartened. (Not talking about "3 Idiots" and "FPS" here- I strongly believe they cannot be compared as they have two completely different storylines!)
Generally, if we become friends with someone first in person, and then chat online or on the phone, it does not make much of a difference because the image of that person has already been created by us through whatever we've seen and experienced.
I discussed the same with Priyanka (@priyankawriting) on Twitter today. She said that if we accept people for what they are, such differences would not arise. It takes time though, for people to accept others for who they are especially when they've created a different picture of them altogether. Not meeting at all might retain the friendship but that usually doesn't happen. If you know the person well, over time, you automatically feel like you should meet him/her in real life in order to spend more time together. That's when you should be prepared for anything. Never decide what you're going to expect. And never feel guilty- sometimes, even when we go prepared, we subconsciously have some notions and expectations about the person! It's human, and it's okay! :)
P.S. Couldn't think of an appropriate title for this post. :(