Meeting a longtime friend in real life. How do I alleviate family concerns?

I apologize if this isn’t the right place to put this.

I’m going to meet a longtime friend I’ve known only online and through phone conversations in August. We’ve known each other for seven years now. I’ve recently let my closest relatives know, but they’re now worried over the usual issue of “who is this person?” and “You don’t know what she even looks like,” etc. I believe my friend is genuine, but can’t think of a way to alleviate their fears over who she is.

Any suggestions? Am I being rash in going to see her? Would it be better if she came to see me first?

I don’t see any reason to not meet your friend as long as you follow some safety precautions. For example, I’d suggest:
Meet at first in a public place and spend some time getting a feel for who this person is in real life before you agree to go into a car or other private setting with her.
Make sure you have a cell phone on your person and arrange to call to check in with your family at regular intervals during the trip.
Plan out a code word with your family ahead of time so that if by some chance things do go wrong on the visit you can give them a signal when you call them.

After seven years I doubt that this person is some predator or anything, but it never hurts to be cautious. Good luck.

I forgot to say that I’m flying overseas (to the UK), which is where my question of rashness came up. I don’t know if that makes a difference regarding precautions.

Stay at a hotel. Just to be on the safe side. The other suggestions were good too. It sounds okay to me, particularly the seven years part.

Can you afford to take someone over with you, at least for the first couple of days when you fly into London?

Have you traveled a lot on your own?

Is this planned to be a romantic/intimate visit or are you just friends?

Are you a man or a woman?

Would your friend be willing to chat with the concerned party - on the phone, I mean, not on the computer? Having your family member hear her voice and get some information first hand (like address, phone number, etc. “just in case” they need to contact you while you’re gone) might help alleviate some concern.

Other than that, have you asked the concerned person what would make them feel more comfortable? They are the one with the problem; how would they like to solve it?

But I think you’re just going to have to accept that they are going to be concerned, no matter what. It’s a sign of love, really. Don’t turn yourself inside out trying to make it all okay, because there’s probably no way in which it will be *all *okay. Just make it as okay as you can.

I’m a woman and she’s just a good friend. I’ve traveled on my own before, but not overseas.

I did try to offer to have her speak with them, so they can ask her questions and things, but my uncle brushed it off for some reason; he did say we should exchange pictures, which is what I was going to do before the trip anyway. As for their concern, I was kind of glad they were. We’re going to talk again on Tuesday, and I’ll see what else I can do.

A. I love your name.

B. When you say you’ve known her for 7 years, does that mean you’ve been interacting every day or just once in a while? Has it been in a public forum (like this one) or just privately?

There are a whole lot of Dopers I would have no qualms about visiting, meeting, staying with because they’re such a known quantity here and people I’ve met have met them. Frankly, there are many people here that I know better than some of my family and RL friends.

If you have that level of comfort with this person, then I would use common sense (make sure you have a phone and a back-up plan if things don’t work out) and not worry too much.

If you don’t have that level of comfort, then I’d definitely make reservations to stay near her and be sure you spend lots of time in public places until you’re comfortable.

Chances are it’s just fine - if you’ve kept up a friendship for 7 years, it’s likely to be OK. Still…being prepared is a good thing.

Hope you have a wonderful trip.

A. Thanks. :slight_smile:
B. We’ve emailed each other for pretty much every day for the seven years, but we met on public forums and LiveJournal first. Also, she gave me her contact info first and we’ve been sending each other cards and Christmas presents for the past few years, and I actually do feel close to her, as though she and I were family. So I feel that I would be comfortable with her, and I’ll take the precaution of making sure I have my cell phone handy and charged and some sort of backup plan.

I just want to say how excited I am for you to finally meet your friend in person. Having read what you’ve written, I would say you are prepared and aware. That being said, I don’t know that you can alleviated your family’s concerns prior to you taking the trip. I think possible taking some pictures of you and your friend doing fun things (sight-seeing or at a monument or something) and sending them home early on in your trip might really help. They see you having fun with someone who is “a real person” and they will probably feel better. I hope you have a great time!

Fwiw, I’ve met a number of people from the internet over the years. They’ve all turned out to be real.

If you are an adult, and she is also an adult, I think your family’s fears are unfounded. Seven years is longer than people have known most of their current friends.

Something about the internet makes people kind of goofy with caution. In the pre-internet days, if you were going to meet your 7-years pen pal, nobody would have said “What if they’re lying, and they’re actually an axe murderer!?!” Anyone who thinks about it objectively would realize how absurd it is to think it would be dangerous to meet up with your friend.

Seven years and she’s yet to offer up a photo of herself?

That’s very strange. It’s 2012, EVERYONE has a few photos of themselves floating around the internet.

Also, is this relationship strictly friendship-based? Or is there a romantic aspect to the relationship as well?

Some warning signs that your online friend isn’t exactly how they represent themselves online:

[li]Reluctant to reveal their true age / origins[/li][li]Reluctant to reveal full name / verfiable life details / photo[/li][li]Reluctant to share real-life contact information (phone number / workplace)[/li][li]Makes financial requests of you / talks about impending financial crisis[/li][li]Claims to have a suggestive line of work (stripper, phone sex, porn star, call girl)[/li][li]You can not identify anyone who actually knows this person in real life (family, friends, co-workers)[/li][/ul]

Nobody seems to have any qualms about meeting a stranger in a bar with the sole intent of sleeping with them for one night and then never seeing them again.

But somehow change the situation to “I met them online” and it turns people paranoid.

The chances of this person harming you are less than 1%. The chances of a stranger you pass in the main street causing you harm as they go by are considerably higher.

7 years is too long for a serial killer to wait. Just go for it, it sounds fine

Not in my circles, most of my friends haven’t seen a pic of me that’s less than 15 years old, nor I any of theirs. The newest pic of my BFF I have is from her nephew’s baptism: that boy is starting 9th grade in October.

Right, but they already know you and have something to go on, even if it’s several years out of date. I can’t imagine talking to someone for seven years and not having a clue what they look like. No Facebook? No vacation photos to share? No “check out what I wore to the New Years party”? Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer to have some sort of visual to work with when I’m talking to someone online every day. If the exchanges were purely on message boards, I’d understand a little more, because I’ve “known” several of you Dopers for years and haven’t seen your photos, but would meet you at a Dopefest without too much trepidation. But exchanging almost-daily emails for seven years and having no idea what the other looks like? That seems really weird to me.

No romantic angle at all, just friendship. And the idea of swapping pictures I guess just never came up. She doesn’t have a Facebook; I do, but don’t have any pics of myself on it–I figure everyone on there already knows me and I rarely visit/post anything on my wall.

I know her full name, age, birthday (including year), living situation, parents’ jobs, younger sibling’s name and age, seen pictures of where she lives, address, phone number, job (non-suggestive line of work). She’s never talked about me sending her money or any other financial matters. But no, I don’t have a photo of her, and she doesn’t have one of me, and I don’t know anyone in real life who knows her, only our mutual online acquaintances.

The few times I’ve wanted to share a pic with online friends, I’ve had to have someone take it: I’m the one behind the camera, no pics of me ever get taken except by design! Many of my friends also have an unfortunate tendency to be the one behind the camera.

I’ve met online friends by the cellphone method: go to the agreed-upon location, see someone of the appropriate age, build and nerdiness level who looks like (s)he is also looking for someone, pull out cellphone, ring them… if that person’s cell starts ringing, and when they answer it comes out of mine, hi, pleased to meet you! Before cellphones, we’d approach each other with trepidation… “uh, hi… uh, are you with Erik’s group?” (because, you know, you’re not going to just name a MUD in public, even if you’re hoping that those other people are players from the same MUD). Previous time of acquaintance has never gone beyond 2 years, so far, but once I’m used to being friends with someone I’ve never seen before, it’s not something that bothers me. I’ve got a mental image of you and I’ve never seen your picture that I recall - are you a brunette? My default mental coloring tends to brunettes, for some reason… looks around the room. The only people who don’t have dark hair are a bald dude and a dyed-blonde woman

Sorry Nava, the no pic thing is weird. Just because you don’t do it doesn’t mean it’s not unusual. Being close enough to send each other presents for 7 years and you don’t know what they look like is strange. Hell 30 years ago I had a picture of my overseas pen pal and that had to be sent by mail. It isn’t necessarily dangerous or wrong, but it is strange.