I’ve heard this story way too many times: Two people meet online somehow. They exchange contact info, and they fall into a loop of talking to each other all day and night via texts, IMs, and/or phone calls. Maybe they end up meeting in real life, but the vast majority of their communication is virtual. They feel like they’ve really scratched the surface and gotten to know each other on a profound level. Naturally, there’s probably some sexting, maybe even declarations of love. There’s definitely some semblance of a bond there. Then, one person reveals they weren’t nearly as invested as they appeared to be. They have a significant other or they suddenly start becoming a vulgar Twitter flirt, or they just decide to fall off the face of the earth. And then the other person is left hurt, confused and disappointed.
I would never deny how wonderful technology is. It’s awesome that I can easily contact my friends 2000 miles away, that I can quickly shoot a text off to my boyfriend asking him to bring home gummy bears, that I can meet new friends via social media. It has truly enriched the world in a way that I could never properly express. That said, technology can also create a connection that feels deeper than it actually is. The thing about written words is you can attach meaning that isn’t there. It doesn’t help that our language is riddled with hyperbole. That chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is amazing. That new episode of Parks and Rec was phenomenal. My new skirt gives me life. Of course this hyperbole extends to the way we communicate with each other, and when you’re in that heady honeymoon period of crushing, you don’t realize that “I love you” doesn’t necessarily mean “I love you for all that you truly are” – it actually means something closer to “I love the idea of you that I’ve built up in my head because you’re more of a fantasy and not a real person with real person feelings.”
Technology can warp the way that we relate to each other. It lulls us into opening ourselves up far more quickly than we would in real life, creating an elevated sense of closeness, while conveniently allowing us to mask the worst parts of ourselves and gloss over our flaws. At the same time, getting swept up in a relationship is more exciting than acknowledging that no one is nearly as perfect as they may try to present themselves. It’s important to approach online relationships with a healthy skepticism. If they flourish into something more substantial and real, that’s awesome. But at their core, they are superficial and barely scrape the surface.
Have you ever been in a virtual relationship? What do you think makes them easier than “real” relationships? Can they be successfully transitioned offline and into the real world?
[Lead image via Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock]