Falling in love “requires little more than a computer, modem, and an ability to converse.” The former is a citation used in Merkle and Richardson’s “Digital Dating and Virtual Relating: Conceptualizing Computer Mediated Romantic Relationships” and in my opinion, it couldn’t be more of an understatement.
To dumb down forming an intense sexual, physical, and sometimes spiritual connection with another human as something that, nowadays, “requires little more than” the aforementioned components diminishes digital courtship to something as simple as surfing Pinterest. While I don’t choose digital dating for myself I don’t think it’s easy. If anything, it’s harder to connect with someone over the internet than it is face-to-face. A mere “Hello” or “How are you doing?” isn’t going to get you anywhere in the world of digital dating. Digital dating is a complete separate social realm from physical dating that probably takes just as much experience as flirting with someone face-to-face. Yes, you can edit your answers all you want but X is typing… can only compete for a person’s attention for so long, particularly when all their internet addictions are a click away.
All that aside, I didn’t have a Facebook until Junior year of High School. Though I’m very used to technology I still very clearly remember the days of Windows 98 and AOL instant messenger. The times when the Internet was utilized but overall less ubiquitous than it is now. I never made a point to make online friends outside of Neopets or socializing with people I already knew through Facebook. The same goes for dating. If I don’t know how to sustain lasting friendships online then I’m definitely not cut out for a relationship. How does it even work? Skype in the morning and at night? Constantly flooding their inbox with messages and updates about your day? I’ve been in a relationship that started in person and was long distance for a period of time over the Internet. That was hard enough. I can’t imagine starting a relationship that way. But hey, not everyone thinks their relationships are going to start online. Sometimes they just happen.
That being said, of course it’s possible to fall in love over the internet! If people can fall in love with objects people can certainly fall in love with other people through a computer screen. Many people have had successful relationships that were fueled by the Internet. Many haven’t. Same as face-to-face interactions. Many people have fallen in love with their projections of what they thought their partner was like both online and face-to-face. There are many types of love and I don’t feel as though it’s my place or in my interest to try and qualify whether they meet my own interpretations or not.
But of course, technology introduces complications into our love lives no matter where our relationships start. Noah does a good job of this by showing us that simple misinterpretations on Facebook or Twitter can make us obsessive and ruin our relationships. Does sending a smiley face in a private message suggest cheating? Is it okay to constantly like my friend’s pictures if they have girlfriends? Well those are blurred lines but that’s ultimately up to the couple in question. For future generations, developing enough maturity to see that minute online interactions shouldn’t dictate a relationship might be their biggest hurdles during adolescence.
In the end however you label it or wherever it starts, what you perceive to be love is love. Other people will always have opinions on other people’s relationships. Opinions that ultimately have nothing to do with how you feel about the validity of your love life.
Concerning yourself with the love lives of others or constantly being influenced by opinions…let’s just say I’d rather try undertaking online dating.
Side note: If you’re interested in learning more about objectophiles check out this episode from Tyra. Tyra basically tries to exploit this woman’s sexuality and shame her but if you can look past Ms. Judgey it’s definitely interesting.