On Virtual Relationships and “Fake Internet Love”
What is love, anyway? It’s an age-old question, pondered by greater minds than my own. But my recent experiences have given me my own perspective on a subject that often defies explanation.
We all understand typical notions of romance, courtship, dating, and relationships. Boy meets girl (or boy meets boy, or girl meets girl), face to face. An attraction is formed, sometimes based on physical characteristics, sometimes on personality, sometimes on a combination of the two. After the initial attraction, the couple goes on to get to know each other better by dating, and after some time decides whether or not they’re compatible emotionally, intellectually, etc. Even if, initially, there seems to be true compatibility, it doesn’t always last. People change. The looks that attracted you might disappear. Or maybe they were projecting a persona that was not the real them in order to keep their relationship going. It is possible to spend years with another person and not really know them. You can be in a traditional relationship and still feel very much alone because there’s no deeper connection.
It is, then, quite surprising that, despite the frequent failures of traditional relationships, people would still cast a skeptical eye upon “online romance”. I’m not talking about using dating sites to purposefully find a mate. I mean when two people share a common interest or activity, like a particular game or social media site, they become friends online, and an attraction forms between them, many times with no real knowledge of physical appearance. Given the high failure rate of traditional relationships that start with physical nearness but end with incompatibilities, you would think that such “internet dating” would gain more mainstream acceptance. Yet it’s often mocked and ridiculed. I see people jokingly refer to Twitter crushes, or smirk about “fake internet love”. Technology is isolating us, they say. Put down your computers or phones and talk to real people, they say. A virtual relationship isn’t the “real” thing, they say.
Why should this be? That we’re even capable of falling in love with someone based on their personality, sense of humor, intelligence, or affection seems inherently more significant than dating someone just because they’re “cute”. The attachment that develops via an online relationship is no less real than a more traditional relationship, and I would hold that the bond can be deeper, more honest, and more true. It isn’t contingent on the possibility of wooing someone into having sex, it isn’t tainted by the shallowness of physical attraction. In my opinion, and now in my own personal experience, love that develops through an internet romance can be the love of your life because it has developed for all the right reasons, not all the wrong ones.
Add common interests to that, and you’ve really got the basis for a relationship worth having. My own, very “real” boyfriend came from my interaction with the WoW/Twitter community. We share interests (gaming), a similar sense of humor (or at least an appreciation of each other’s humor), and discovered, via text and Skype conversations, that we share similar views on life, love, and happiness. He lives on the opposite side of the country from me. But technology brought us together, and allowed us to develop a real relationship without any outside pressures. We were “friends” for a while before I realized I had formed a more romantic attachment to him and found the nerve to tell him how I felt about him. We were an “online couple” for 3 1/2 months before we finally met face to face. At our initial meeting, no time was lost getting to know each other; by this point, we were already well acquainted. That meeting didn’t make our relationship finally “real”. It just cemented what we already knew to be true. And it has strengthened our commitment not only to each other, but to one day eliminate that distance so that technology is no longer necessary to continue our relationship. But I’ll never forget the gift that technology gave me: my own true love.
Love can be anywhere. It can be found right next to you at a party, or online in an internet chat room. It doesn’t matter where you find it, just that you do find it at all. Don’t let friends, family, or society dictate to you where you should find yours, or you could miss out on the chance of a lifetime, and miss out on someone who could be the love of your life.
Happily ever after…