I work as a network technician for a K-8 school. My job, and the job of my small team, is to provide infrastructure and other equipment to our staff and students. Thankfully, we have an eager bunch who are anxious to learn. This proves beneficial to us because, frankly, we'd never get anything done if every student (or teacher) who didn't know how to cut/paste came running to us for support. That's not to say we don't assist people, or that we don't have busy days, only that smaller, more well-known problems can be handled by our staff--or, in this case, our community. Granted, we're also not some big company selling our product to consumers and then wiping our hands of any and all responsibility. Like with my humble tech team, a reasonable amount of service should be expected, but I strongly believe end users should be able to educate themselves. That said, I'm still gonna mash "0" until I get a human
It sounds like you've been fairly lucky in this respect, but I know of many cases where someone has portrayed themselves as what they think the other person wants rather than what they really are. And when that happens, meeting in person has a very high chance of disaster.It's a double edged sword, and no, I would not recommend meeting with someone after three weeks of chatting. Make sure you have a darn good idea who they are, even if it means phone calls and chatting for years. Then again, I don't have to educate anyone here about things like that. Ultimately, I'm arguing the added anonymity can help direct attention to the things that really matter. Things like personality, a sense of humor, and other attributes that lurk just beneath the surface. If all of that is a sham to begin with, the point is moot. If, however, two people come to know one another on such a level, it's a lot easier for them to carry that relationship into real life.