by Phil Geusz
©2005 Phil Geusz
Not all furs do it. Some are real stay-at-home types, content to interact with our fellows via speeding electrons and digitalized electromagnetic waves. Most of us, however, eventually want to go beyond on-line relationships and chat. We want to meet in person, and get to know each other in the flesh.
The vast majority of the time, this seems to work out pretty well. While some on-line friendships have indeed been ruined by face-to-case contact, more commonly meeting others in person serves to cement and strengthen relationships. Interpersonal relationships are based on far more than mere words; we communicate at least as eloquently via posture, gestures, and expressions as well. Observing how a person holds their head as they speak or learning what makes them smile is essential to understanding the whole person behind the nickname. In my experience, once an in-person meeting has taken place, on-line chat becomes a far more rewarding social experience for everyone involved.
Sometimes, furs choose to meet up with each other directly, in restaurants or the like. Due to heavily-publicized incidents, many furs have a deep fear of meeting people that they have only known on-line. While this fear is not totally misplaced, meeting your friend for the first few times in a public place and employing common sense are usually adequate defenses against those who would do harm. It is my personal opinion that the fellowship and friendship to be gained from in-person meetings far exceed the risks involved. Others may well disagree.
Lots of furs meet their friends in-person for the first time via local fur-groups. Very often these groups are centered on regional mailing lists, where group activities are discussed and planned. http://www.catbox.com/laff/furrymap.htm is the best listing of such groups that Ive come across. Standard fare consists of movie-nights, furry bowling outings, trips to zoos and museums, and group dinners. Ive personally participated in events sponsored by LAFF, ARF, and TN Fur; all of these groups consist of wonderful people who went out of their way to make me feel at home, and Ive made many friends that I hope will last a lifetime. In my opinion, these regional social groups are absolutely the best way to get to know people.
The biggest fur gatherings of all are the conventions. These range from smaller gatherings of a hundred or so, such as Rocket City Furmeet, to affairs like Anthrocon that attract thousands. (Theres a partial list at http://www.xydexx.com/anthrofurry/faq.htm) While cons can indeed be a convenient and safe place to meet others, first-timers need to be aware that because the gatherings are so large, they are often quite impersonal as well. Ive heard many complaints from first-timers that no one even spoke to them during the whole con, and I have no reason to believe that these complaints are without merit. I love going to cons, and try to take in as many as my budget and vacation allotment allows. However, while they are great places to hang out with folks that you already know, it can be very hard to break through the social walls and get to know people for the first time there. The crowds are too large, the pace is too hectic, and there just isnt enough time. If one does decide to try and get to know folks at a con, Id strongly urge them to try and commit several hours at a certain time and place well in advance. Otherwise, people tend to spin off in all directions at once.
On another note, lonely furs often come to cons not knowing anyone, with the sole intention of making new friends there. While this can be done, the odds are stacked against it. Id strongly urge anyone trying this strategy to get involved in activities where the con-goers are broken down into small groups, like panel discussions and game-contests. Crowds are faceless masses, and are easy to get lost in. Small groups, on the other hand, are where people tend to connect with each other. Ive had some of the best times of my life in groups of from about six to fifteen.
Finding furdom, meeting fellow furs in person, and then attending various cons and get-togethers with my new friends has enriched my life more than I can possibly express. Indeed, today I can hardly imagine life without in-person contact. So, if you havent worked up the courage to explore the world beyond the monitor and keyboard
jump right in and join us! The waters fine, and were having a real blast!