I have tons of virtual friends. I know what you’re thinking. Virtual doesn’t mean real. They’re real – cross my heart and hope to . . . cross my heart, they’re real.

For years, I’ve attended PADI Diving Society events, joined in with dive clubs, gone on dive trips and found new dive buddies for every occasion. Hey, even a Guru gets lonely – and the more a Guru looks the more scuba friendly friends a Guru finds.

We're Virtua(lly) Buddies

But recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about social networking, the virtual world and the virtual community. Virtual this. Virtual that. Virtual reality. Virtual, well, everything. It gives me a virtual headache because the real world has plenty to handle without a virtual one. On the other hand, I need as many friends as I can get, so maybe there’s a better way to look at this.

Without sounding like a philosopher, what is reality anyway? Is there really any difference between reaching out to buddies you know from online versus those you met face-to-face? What if you send an email to someone you met in person? What if you go diving with someone you met online?

If your dive buddies live around the corner, or even in the same state or territory, you can meet and stay in touch the traditional way – in person. In fact, some of the my closest friendships have started at my local dive shop’s dive day event, which turned into us attending a PADI Diving Society event together, then turned into friendships that have lasted a lifetime – (so far . . . at least no one has officially broken off a friendship yet). When you meet folks with similar interests (diving) and similar goals (diving as much as possible) it’s easy to create a lasting bond (go on dive trips together and have fun).

At you local shop’s dive event or PADI Diving Society event, you know that everyone is connected by diving. You always have something to talk about, and you never seem to run out of stories that make you laugh or blush (not that I’ve ever seen or done anything inappropriate, embarrassing or otherwise compromising while on a dive trip). But, why limit yourself to meeting divers who happen to live near you when there’s a whole wide world of dive buddies just waiting to be discovered?

With communities like PADI Diving Society, you can discover new dive buddies anywhere in the world. PADI Diving Society is the largest dive group worldwide that gives you access to a members-only publication, member-only Society events, where like me, you can meet new dive buddies and reconnect with old ones. You can get a cool collector’s edition membership card – in fact you can even vote for the 2013 membership card. Then with your Society card in hand, you can flash it to get special PADI Diving Society discounts and savings on dive equipment, training and travel from PADI Dive Centers and Resort. So when you and your new friends are done researching your next dive adventure on ScubaEarth, you can check out Society benefits from various PADI Resorts around the world, as well as purchase scuba equipment from your local PADI Dive Center before you go.

So, when it comes to the dive community, the virtual world is the real world – and vice versa. When you go to ScubaEarth™ or join a dive group in Facebook, you have real connections. Just like you do when you join PADI Diving Society. Just because someone lives halfway across the world – or just around the corner but doesn’t make it out to in-person events – and you meet online doesn’t make them any less in touch or any less friends. Okay, some people call them “virtual,” but they’re not. They’re real living breathing divers. They share stories and info and help you figure out where you want to dive next just like they were sitting across the table from you. And, they often become “real” (i.e. in-person) dive buddies when you meet up and dive together.

It’s time to branch out and make some new connections. When you join PADI Diving Society and ScubaEarth, you connect with other PADI Divers, PADI Professionals and PADI Dive Centers and Resorts around the world. These new, real friends can help you research travel destinations, view dive site details, follow real-time water and dive conditions and much more. You can continue your community (or form a new one) online and get your “scuba snacks” whenever you want. Don’t forget your virtual dive buddies are only “virtual” in that you haven’t met them in person yet. Beyond that, they’re as real as you are. Contact your local PADI Dive Center or visit padidivingsociety.com to join the PADI Diving Society today, and get ready join the evolution of ScubaEarth, coming soon.

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