I’ve had Twitter for almost five years, and in that time I’ve accrued a pretty hefty list of people that I am “following.” The term in itself is somewhat creepy… and then you consider the fact that a lot of these people — whose updates I’ve been reading daily for years — are people I’ve never even met in person.

My name is Jess, and I’m a lurker.

Sure, I’ve seen some of my tweeps out and about. But over the years I’d convinced myself I can’t just, like, go up to them and say hi, you know? So I’ve humbly smiled while desperately avoiding eye contact, as if I were a middle-schooler with a crush.

You’ve been there — writing those little notes from the pre-text message age that say things like “omg Nick is soooo cute, don’t tell him I like him!”

Except in this case it’s more like “This person is so talented, I’d really like to get to know them… they can never find out!”

But as I’ve started to realize just how close I am to being thrust into the world of adulthood, I’ve made the decision that it’s time for me to actually step out of the Twittersphere and meet these people in real life.

The computer screen is a helpful social buffer, but it can also hinder you. It becomes an enabling factor in your life that will turn you into a shy creepy lurker like myself.

But let me clue you in on a little secret: as it turns out, if you cultivate relationships online they can actually carry over in real life! Whodathunkit?

I’ve seen some people make their first step mentioning someone on Twitter and asking them if they want to get coffee. While that has worked for them, sometimes it can seem a little uncomfortable. What if they say no? That’s a very public rejection.

What I chose to do was to gather up the guts to actually say hi to people I know whenever I see them in person. And to my surprise, a lot of them knew who I was. What?!

It can be hard accepting that someone doesn’t know who you are. But you also have to accept that there are people you don’t know who know you. If you aren’t sure one of your tweeps will know you on sight (or if you’re sure they won’t), just say “I follow you on Twitter and wanted to introduce myself.” I’ve said this and had it said to me, and it’s led to some pretty awesome IRL — and online — relationships.

The Twittersphere is a pretty sick place where incredibly talented, funny and wise people reside. But they’re also (usually) that great in the real world, too. Taking that first step outside the Twittersphere can be somewhat daunting… but once you finally do, you’ll realize IRL is actually kind of sweet.

Jessica Ryan is a senior media studies major at CU. She writes about nerdy things once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.

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