When you are dot com entrepreneur, working from your home office (or Starbucks, as the case may be), it becomes far too easy to get caught up in your own little world. Chatting with friends on an instant messenger and contacting freelance writing clients via email is one thing, but actually participating in real life is a different matter altogether. To actually see a person’s face and shake their hand is an entirely different experience than typing out a sideway smiley face.

Many will tell you that this is perhaps the greatest shortcoming or downside to having your own work-from-home business: you don’t get the same level of face-to-face interaction as you would if you had a conventional 9-to-5 office job. You don’t get to pull pranks on Dwight Shrute or get peeved about “Corporate accounts payable, Mindy speaking. One moment please.” You typically don’t hop out to lunch with a colleague, because most of your business associates could be half a globe and seven time zones away. Your so-called “connected world” has human isolation as one of its core characteristics.

Not only to prevent you from turning criminally insane, but also to remind you that there is a real world with real people behind all those LOLs and affiliate marketing campaigns, it is incredibly important to leave your computer desk from time to time and actually talk to a regular person, preferably someone who is somewhat removed from the virtual world of the intarwebs. Meet up with one of your “normal” friends for a cup of coffee. Or go eat a bowl of Vietnamese pho.

To illustrate this point, let me tell you about my interaction with Gary Ng, who many of you may know as Gdog of The Daily Kimchi. I don’t remember exactly how I came across his blog in the first place, but I came to be a regular visitor to The Daily Kimchi. I’d read about his Korean exploits, commenting on the occasional post, and he would do the same here at Beyond the Rhetoric. For the longest time, I only knew him as Gdog, not knowing his real name. I also had no idea what he looked or sounded like, other than hearing his voice in a YouTube video.

Let me tell you, when Gary came for one of our weekly pho sessions for the first time, it felt unreal. Imagine that: there’s a real person behind that website. I had a similar experience when I met a certain panda killer in real life (IRL) for the first time. For many budding dot com moguls, the root of all evil is still somewhat of a mythical creature. I know he was for me back when I was still comment whoring on his blog.

There are inherent benefits to engaging with people in real life versus interacting with them over the Internet. Whether you are a freelance writer or a web designer, go meet some real people and shake their hands. It could lead to a business referral, sure, but more importantly, it could lead to a real friendship and not just a virtual one. Not to mention a couple extra boosters to your very real sanity.