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By Stuart McDonald October 23, 2009 10:10 am

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With the popularity of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks on the steady rise, the once highly stigmatized phrase, “we met online,” has become more widely accepted.

And while, it’s not quite the “social norm,” just yet — at least for those who don’t tweet (I mention Twitter mainly because people on Facebook normally know each other, but Twitter allows for more networking with strangers) — it’s surely gained more acceptance than it had 3 or 4 years ago. That was the time when the only people who met online were desperate people who used online dating sites and MySpace to hook up.

I recently had a friend — who is not on Twitter — ask me if I had ever met anyone I interact with on Twitter. I looked at her like she was crazy. Of course I have! (In fact, just yesterday, I had lunch with a friend who I met on Twitter.)

The look on her face was half “huh?” half “really?” with a pinch of “why?” on the side. Now, perhaps, her look came because she wasn’t on Twitter and the idea of meeting a “stranger” seemed a little out there. It’s really not.

That’s where she was wrong — these people aren’t strangers. At all. I’d venture to say that my followers on Twitter know me in a more intimate way than some of my friends who don’t tweet. They get a lot of things “straight from the brain” if you will — uncensored. Sometimes good; sometimes bad. You see, the great thing about Twitter is that it allows you to skip the whole “getting to know you” phase and instead, allows you to jump right into the middle of that person’s life (at least to the degree they let you).

And in fact, it’s a natural progression to move to actually meeting someone once you’ve established a relationship with them, right? Twitter has even spawned the birth of the tweetup — where you and your Twitter friends can meet up.

I always look forward to meeting a tweep (for you non-tweeting people that’s slang for “Twitter peep”). Now, you might think meeting them for the first time, in person, would be awkward, but in fact, it’s the opposite. In my experience, the tweeps I’ve met, are exactly the same person I’ve interacted with online. Our interaction has been very nature and I’ve found that we have plenty to talk about. It’s almost like running into a good friend you haven’t seen in a few months.

I’ve met (in person) probably close to 25 or 30 people that I first followed on Twitter. And those people are some of the coolest, most fun people I know. Also the craziest. But that’s OK, I use that term lovingly, knowing that I too, am crazy. We’re peas in a Twitter pod.

For single folks, inevitably the thought comes up, “Could I meet my spouse on Twitter?”

I say, “Sure, why not?” I actually have heard of a couple who is now married who met on Twitter. So it has happened. Is it the norm? Probably not. At least not yet. Twitter is a relatively new phenomenon and there’s no reason that in 5 years the number of couples marrying because they met on Twitter.

So what do you think? Have you met folks from Twitter? What was your experience? Would you, as I have, recommend it to others? Why?

[For more from Stuart McDonald, check out his personal blog and follow him on Twitter]

Read more: http://elev8.com/daily-offerings/the-you-met-online-stigma/#ixzz0V3LVCn5u