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Love in the Modern World: Finding a Relationship in Cyberspace

by Victor Pross

HUMAN BEINGS NEED TO CONNECT. Though all kinds of relationships—with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues—partially meet the human’s hardwired need for social contact. This need most commonly reveals itself in the search for love relationships. Many people not currently in love relationships invest a great amount of energy to find one. The need can be that strong, no matter how many friends or family one has. The need, of course, for the deepest intimacy a person can experience is romantic love.

Finding a life partner in a sophisticated technological society is harder than finding one in a primitive village, where at least everyone knew everyone else and one would pick a spouse from the relatively few people available. That didn’t necessarily yield happy results, of course, but the intimacy of that kind of community provided support for those whose pick was less than ideal. Now the horizons are much less limited, but the trade off could be a loss of community and a fraying of the web of social supports that binds groups of people.

Marshall McLuhan first wrote about the “global village” in the 1960s. Since then the world has become even smaller and more interconnected, with the internet and globalization bringing the earth’s people closer together. McLuhan was talking only about physical space, not cyber space. With so many human interactions now mediated by some kind technological interface, be it a phone or a computer, contact between people loses the intimacy necessary to form individual relationships and in turn communities. In our accelerated technological society, we become too caught up worrying about being a tec nerd to enjoy a “spiritual connection” to our world or to other people. But I would now be the first to state that technology has unarguably improved human lives a great deal. One benefit is the expansion of our circle of potential relationships—especially a love relationship.

Personally, I found just such a relationship. I wasn't seeking it--it "just happened." Her name is Angie. Our values and thoughts parallel one another’s to such a great extent, it seemed as if we have already met face-to-face and have known each other for years. There are those who are cynical or skeptical to the idea that people can fall in love via the cyber world, but when I monitor my insides, my thoughts, feelings—my reactions to Angie—I know for certain that the cynics are wrong.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m of the old school: I enjoy face-to-face relationships with living and breathing human beings (terribly old-fashioned that I am). I’ll take real over virtual anytime. Nevertheless, I became curious and eventually joined the cyber world of the 21st century, but not to find romance. I found many chat groups and forums that complain about the isolation of modern life. It is not practical to maintain such a love relationship for a protracted period of time—neither is it desirable—but nobody can tell us that we are not in love, although some have tried. It is with such possibilities—finding friendship or love---that the modern technological world is to be commended.

There are thinkers and philosophers who have wrote and spoke of the “alienation of modern man” with the advances of technology, and I always found certain plausibility to their claims. But I eventually concluded that alienation is an inner phenomenon-- not external. Spirituality—in the secular meaning—is essentially an internal matter, an affair of the heart. It has to do with a mode of consciousness, a certain way of perceiving oneself, others, and the world. There is nothing religious or mystical about this.

People are connecting all over the world with a personal home computer and a click of the mouse. This “spiritually” is being transmitted and communicated and felt at long distances via the miracle of technology. At some point, however, they’ll have to leave their desks to enjoy and maintain that which can never be replaced: live contact with another human being. The internet can bring people together—but it can’t keep them together.

Can people connect and fall in love before actually meeting? The answer is a resounding YES. There is no dispute. Angie and I have thought of our selves as standing on a hill and the horizons around us a circle allowing us to have a different view from the cynics. We moved from the “center” where the mob stands—with its heard view of success, trends, and values—and what’s “appropriate” and “normal” when it comes to meeting another person and falling in love. We saw a new perspective—we saw our own; we wrote our own rules.

After eight months of steady contact with Angie, I am happy to announce that we finally met on May 23, 2007. We enjoyed eight days together.

Can people fall in love over the internet? I was skeptic before, but now I’m a true believer.

:)

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Before the internet, there were people that fell in love writing each other letters. I mean, it really depends on the person.

Personally though I can't see myself falling in love with someone who I've never met. I could like them a lot, but not necessarily love them -- at least not romantically. One of the biggest problem being that for me, I have to find the person physically desirable if I were to be in a romantic relationship with them. If I met someone online, and it turned out that she's 300 pounds of ugliness, then while we could still remain friends, we would not become lovers.

I have to point out though that sometimes, I think it's easier to really get to know someone online. Behind the pseudo-anonymity of cyberspace, you get to actually know someone by communicating with them mind to mind. You're not under the pressure of being judged by your physical appearances, or wealth, or whatever other superficial and external factors.

But in the end, I think physical attraction and romantic love still goes hand in hand -- at least for most people. That is really my only concern about meeting someone online.

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Moebius,

Of course, there are pros and cons to meeting future lovers on the internet. One of the pros of developing a romance in cyber space is the fact that the limitations of the net itself: it encourages people to have to focus on each other's personalities. In the absence of physical “real life” interaction, people have to communicate with words to get to know one another. Those couples also advantage of already knowing each other well as they have learned to communicate well together. One of the disadvantages is that much of human communication is non-verbal. However, one online romance site I saw states that many Internet romances do successfully turn into conventional relationships. I can believe it.

On the other hand, you do raise some legitimate concerns. Another one of the cons is that the cyber person you are interacting with may not be giving an honest account of him/her self - a risk that is not, of course, absent when meeting people the “conventional way”. Anyway, do you really want to meet someone at a singles bar? Men and women lie all the time.

Having met my significant other at “cyber land”, I can testify to the tremendous benefits to be derived from cyber romance. I have truly met the love of my life. So I may have some valuable insights in the matter.

Here are a few tips for those who may wish to give internet relationships a try:

[A] Ask straight forward questions in learning about the other person—questions you may feel shy to ask if face-to-face. Learn about that person and keep track of significant conversations. This is beneficial for two reasons: A, you can keep track of important facts about that person in the quest to understand them. Allow red flags to be alerted if there are apparent contradictions of a person's history and other facts as one reveals more of themselves.

Exchange a bevy of photos with each other. Try to get a real sense of the physical reality of the other person.

[C] At some point, it is important to have phone conversations with each other. Again, it helps to get a better idea of the other human being.

[D] Have fun. Just because this is not the conventional way of meeting someone does not mean you are interviewing your potential lover. Be funny, open, honest, charming and engaging. The love dance remains the same as it has always been. Having fun and allowing your feelings to unfold: that’s how you learn about someone else and how you best reveal who you are to someone else.

This is not an inclusive list, but it is a good start. Good luck. :)

Victor

Edited by Victor
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Of course, there are pros and cons to meeting future lovers on the internet. One of the pros of developing a romance in cyber space is the fact that the limitations of the net itself: it encourages people to have to focus on each other's personalities. In the absence of physical “real life” interaction, people have to communicate with words to get to know one another.

Well yes, that's exactly what I said. In any case, I think bonds that you form online can be just as real as those you form in real life.

However, I cannot see myself "falling in love" with someone merely based on internet conversations.

Exchange a bevy of photos with each other. Try to get a real sense of the physical reality of the other person.

Hmm... I can not even begin to tell you how many times I've seen the internet photo method failed the participants.

"That's what I looked like before I gained 100 lbs."

"Well, that's what I used to look like. In high school."

"That's what I looked like when I used to work out. I just haven't had time lately."

On top of all that, then there is photoshop.

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Moebius,

Well of course people are able to be dishonest over the Internet! It’s a good thing I didn’t say otherwise. But I stand by my guns that it remains a great resource to meeting someone.

Angie, my girlfriend, made some good points in learning about another person in email or on-line. It can be done---if you are smart about it, as she was. She was really “checking my ass out” and good, to use our colloquial language. A few of her questions were so subtle and seemingly innocuous and I didn’t realize that a hot little brain was burning away, analyzing the nature and quality of my answer. Apparently—and without my knowledge—I was getting passing grades and no red flags were being raised in her mind. :D

Of course, my questions were more direct and I was rather transparent. “Angie, are you the loyal, loving, fetching-your-man-a-beer type, the always smoking sexy, forever hot model variety?” Of course, I’m only joking around, no need to privately contact the site moderators. B)

Kidding aside, Angie strived to paint a realistic picture of herself so I wouldn’t be “deluded” as to what I’m getting myself into. In the quest of this objective, she sent me day-to-day photos of herself--for example: tired and dressed slovenly, no make-up, pictures with her little boy, etc. All of this was on the basis, I believe, of: “So, you still want the package?” My answer was YES.

I want and love Angie for what she is inside--her person, her values, her spirit. But I won’t deny it: she is an incredibly attractive woman. I have dated attractive women before, ones who are not too bright, ones who solely count on their looks and who are stuck for a reply if you say ‘hello’ to them. Never again. Angie is, yes, the complete package. You see, it can happen to you.

-Victor

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