I have been troubled with the idea of virtual love since the beginning of my own relationship with social media. I created a MySpace profile when I was 12, and shortly after, I succumbed myself (by way of peer pressure) to the inevitability of a Facebook profile. At that point, everyone had one. You might think it was a generational thing, but it wasn’t. Soon, my mother and all my older cousins had a Facebook profile too.
Not only that, one of them started dating through Match.com. It really struck to me was that my cousin was dating someone online, someone with whom a dating website had set her up with, someone with whom she hadn’t had any physical interaction with, a complete stranger. They didn’t fall in love at first sight but at first online “wink” (In case you didn’t know, when you enter match.com, a person shows interest in you by sending you a wink).
By the time I learned about her new relationship, they had met each other in person. Thankfully, the online-based characters fell in love offline as well. That same year, I heard about my Literature teacher getting married to a man from the UK, who she had met online too. All these stories were getting to my thirteen-year-old mind. I had never fell in love, but it didn’t seem possible for me to do so online, without physical attraction or personality compatibility.
My personal reasons for not believing in this (not so) new innovation stand: we become comfortable with the idea of a cyberspace barrier instead of living out a normal human interaction based relationship, you block the real world out, the character you create in your head might not be the one in real life, you might be compatible online but totally different offline, it leads to disappointment most of the time. Need more? I did. So, I researched through an essay by Meghan Daum called “Virtual Love”.
In it, she describes the story of her own romantic online relationship, which did not end well. Her reason for the breakup was similar to my own problems with the concept of online dating. She and PFSlider (his online name) were not compatible offline; they love was true only behind the wall of cyberspace.Daum was not the typical person: she did not enjoy people’s company and was not so friendly. Her cyber world prevented her from all these awkward moments: the silent phone calls, the dating game, the lies, and so on. But what realness could this offer? None.
This is one key issue to reflect on. Have we become so alienated to normal courtship, are we so tired of the “game”, are we so disappointed with traditional means of love, that we need to create another world to fall in love? What does this say about our society? Basically, that we are allergic to human contact, to awkward conversations and uncomfortable situations. The Internet offers an open door to a space with none of these problems we have developed. Think about it, wouldn’t it be convenient to have an online romance with no responsibilities, no money spending, no uncomfortable conversations, no holiday gifting and no jealousy? It sounds like a promising offer.
On the other hand, I refuse to give in. Why? Because I am a human, an homo sapiens sapiens who enjoys awkward conversations, dinner nights and holiday gifting. I am a normal human, traditional and romantic being who will not give in to the irresponsibility of the human race in the love department. Our race was not made to avoid each other. Our evolution process led us to being sociable organisms and we cannot fight that, no matter how much we want to.
Just the other day the online dating came back to haunt me. My cousin (keep in mind that she is thirteen) met her boyfriend through Instagram two months ago and they have been “loving” each other ever since. I sat down with her to try to understand the situation and help her parents while I was at it. When I asked her if she felt that she knew him without meeting him face to face, she answered: “I have talked to him through Keek, Instagram and Facetime. I do not need to see him to say I know him”. Oh, boy! How wrong was she. I explained some harsh realities I have been faced with in matters of love but she did not care.
I might be the last girl who doesn’t believe in the Internet as a dating service, who still believes in the power of a hand-written love letter, who enjoys sunsets and days at the beach, but I do not care. I will never stop spreading the traditional courtship virus. Join me in preserving our nature’s way of love, will you?