IRL means In Real Life. I'm writing a duo of blog posts on this topic because I think it really applies to Health Activists. This post deals with meeting our community members in person...
Yes, we are Health Activists because we interact with other patients online. But some of us take our Health Activism to a different level... we meet some of our community members in the flesh.
Have you ever met one of your community members in person?
How did you set it up? What was your experience like? Would you do it
again? What kind of advice would you offer others who want to meet
their members IRL?
Meeting someone you have only had interaction with online can be a spooky thing, especially the first time.
The first person I met IRL was my friend Michelle. She is a Graves'
Disease Health Activist and one of the first online patient advocates I
ever interacted with online or otherwise. She and I have remained close
over several years now, and I treasure her friendship as something
beyond our activism... this is very personal.
Michelle lives in Georgia. My hubs and I were traveling to Florida
for a conference, and we made sure that one of our layovers - a long one
- happened in the Atlanta airport. Michelle and her son got a ride and
we met for lunch in the airport at a sandwich shop. We only had 2
hours, but we packed a lot of interaction into that time, and that only
cemented our friendship further. To this day, we remain close and write
each other frequently both about our Graves' Disease and about our
lives in general.
A couple weeks ago, I had another opportunity to meet online friends
IRL. I was able to connect IRL with some of the superstars of the
Migraine world when I was asked to participate in a conference in
Philadelphia, PA. Because of my experience with Michelle, I had the
courage to tell them "Yes!" and I'm so glad I did. We spent two days
together, and friendships that we have had online for some time stepped
up to an entirely new level as a result of that personal interaction.
I'll share a photo of our little group below. It's a picture I never
imagined would happen. Look at us all, online friends who all came
together because of our activities with patients and our passion and
dedication to helping others with a debilitating disease. I don't mind
telling you, I'm pretty proud of that photo and what it means. Pictured
below from left to right are:
Teri Robert (Health Central, Migraine.com and HelpForHeadaches), Anne Ledet (Migraine Puppet), Megan Oltman (FreeMyBrain), me (WEGO Health, Migraine.com), Janet Geddis (The Migraine Girl, Migraine.com), and Diana Lee (Somebody Heal Me, Migraine.com).
(...and yes, the ever-present D&G sunglasses came off for the photo, but you can see them still in my hand!)
Next I'll be posting about taking online Health Activism to a whole new level - becoming politically active for your cause...