I have a confession: before this kind of thing was cool, I’ve met over 300 of the people I knew online in person.
The first person I did that with went alright, but then they did something which made me reconsider meeting anyone that way ever again. The second person, thankfully, didn’t exhibit such anti-social tendencies, and we’ve been cool ever since. Meeting him let me meet other friends of mine, and my network kept growing, both online and in-person.
Nowadays, people have little qualms about making friends online and meeting them in person. To wit, the Teaching 2030 team still has strong ties, even though we rarely get to see each other collectively. Part of that came from having a common goal and vision, but another part of it is building the right conditions to assure that everyone can come together for this common goal.
Whether we meet virtually or face-to-face, knowing the personnel matters.
In the best ones I’ve seen, all the rules were understood and grew organically from the conversations that happened. These norms helped develop it (for the better), and people who didn’t conform learned how to … or left. In an understated way, teachers held each other accountable for a high sense of professionalism and courtesy. It’s never perfect, but once the group understands the relationships, they don’t necessarily need to say anything.
Yet, it’s also important to restate the norms once a group reaches a certain point. At first, I couldn’t understand that common sense / courtesy is not common, but, probably more appropriate, not everyone understands how a professional environment develops. Some of us still need to learn that voice, whereas others have it but don’t always get to share it in other arenas.
First and foremost, though, the relationship between that person and the others in the group needs to grow, needs trust, and respect. The most effective environments have people who know this, whether they meet face-to-face or not.