Erich R. Merkle and Rhonda A. Richardson describe computer mediated relationships (CMRs) in detail in their article, “Digital Dating and Virtual Relating: Conceptualizing Computer Mediated Romantic Relationships.” Some of the complications that they explain about this form of relationship are the order in which people get to know each other, the availability of other partners, and the geographic separation involved in digital relationships. In traditional face-to-face relationships, the order that people tend to follow is proximity and physical attraction, similarities, then divulging more personal traits. However, because the internet provides a kind of anonymity, people usually tend to divulge more intimate secrets earlier on, and proximity and attraction play a much smaller role. The internet hosts millions and millions of user, many of whom are looking for dating partners. Because of this, there is always a high availability of choices. Since there are literally thousands of other fish out there obtainable at the click of a button, it is easier and more convenient to break off a current relationship. There is also less pressure from outside sources, and less apprehension about feelings and explanations, because all one has to do is ignore the other person. Finally, separation is very common in digital relationships. People in Asia can easily communicate with people across the globe in the U.S. (except for the time difference), so it’s easy for couples to actually be separated geographically by many miles. During the “courting” process of the digital relationship, this proximity or lack there of doesn’t have much relevance on the situation, but if that digital relationship becomes real and significant, the members will probably like to meet face to face at which time this becomes an issue.
Even if you follow the rules set by the girl in the video above, I do not believe that there can be a true connection in the traditional sense between two people digitally. That is not to say that meeting people online whom you might be very connected is impossible; I just feel that the actual time when one discovers the reality of the relationship is when the two people meet face to face. The simple reason for this is that it is far too easy to be somebody different online than one is in real life. Even if someone is trying to be completely honest and genuine online, there are always things in real life that also characterize them. A person can not truly know if someone is fit to be a lifetime partner or a significant other until those two people meet in real life. For example, in Noah, two people already know each other and have been dating for a significant period of time. However, they don’t communicate well digitally because messages get mixed up, and the lack of emotion and intimacy that occurs in real life is absent online. Noah thinks that his girlfriend is trying to break up with him based on some distracted conversation on Skype which was interrupted, and some evidence of another man in her life which he found while stalking and eventually hacking her Facebook page. These suspicions don’t play out in a fulfilling way online because it is missing the true connection that people get when they are really with each other physically. Digital communication is just too easily corruptible. My experience, as I think is true with everyone today, is a hybrid of the two styles. I tend to meet friends and girlfriends in real life, but the bulk of the similarities stage and basic getting to know the other person stage occurs online or via text message. Then, if the relationship gets to be more serious, I start to see that person more and more in real life, and communication becomes pretty constant both online and in person. This switch to digital relationships will make it tough for future generations to truly understand things like empathy, respect, and in my opinion, love.