In today’s Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace era of “meeting” people, many friends are virtual; you know people from their pictures or posting online, but you’ve never actually seen them in person. As in most things, this kind of friendship has both advantages and drawbacks; we get to interact with different people we may not have “met” otherwise, but we also miss out on the personal nuances of spending time with someone in person.

Safety is a big concern when meeting anyone in person, and now there is an online way to find out if the person you are meeting is who they say they are, and if it is worth spending any time with that person. Date Check is a service that allows you to use your mobile phone to see if your date has a criminal record; all you need is their name and telephone number (which you should have). They have various variations on what you can check for, from “sleaze” (felonies, sex offenses), to $$$ (property), and living situation (other people at the residence, mom & dad or perhaps a wife). The app works with both Blackberry and iPhone (as well as other types of smart phones), so download it if you are meeting someone new, and USE it if you are meeting someone in person for the first time (even if they are already a virtual “friend”.

What if you don’t have anyone you want to meet in person even though you have 200 followers on Twitter, and 100 friends on Facebook? Sign up for By/Association which is about introducing you to quality interesting people (this is NOT a dating site, although you might make that kind of connection through this). They just introduce you to ONE person you might want to meet IN PERSON each month based on your interests. To join you must fill in an application and if you are approved, they will charge you monthly for membership ($99 per year right now). If you apply and are accepted in 2009, your fees will be waived for the first month.

Their definition of a network is one in which the connections last and are bound together by more than simply business or superficial liens; think of this as your personal matchmaker for friendships. Their manifesto says that a new definition of wealth “should be based on creativity, innovation, and social benefit”. Amen.