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Online Relationships

by Selina Kelley

Online relationships are mere figments of your imagination. They don't exist, not really. That cute little 19 year old nymphet from Dallas is really a 36 year old computer programmer having a little fun. How can anything so intangible be real? It's fake. All of it. You're all imagining it.
Issac Asimov

Someone that really knows about robots.

Possibly that's a little extreme, but how can an online relationship ever be considered on par with anything that you experience in the infamous "real life"? How can a relationship be judged without physical interaction with a person? Text is text- A way of expressing emotions that sometimes don't express themselves in the "real life", but most of the time, it's a virtual interaction with other virtual entities.

A cleverly written robot can (and has in the past) seem the same as a "real" person. You can never guarantee who is behind that keyboard, if there is someone there at all. You can never guarantee who wrote that email, who sent you that "tell", who that really is in that scanned photograph. So how can you justify a relationship with someone "online"?

Yes, I'm a hypocrite. I married someone I met "online". But not before we met, certainly. Not before we spent physical time with each other. You can make the comparison that love is intangible, and hence falling in love with an intangible person can be just as relevant as falling in love with a "physical" person, but honestly, without touch, smell, sense, sight, pheromones interacting with each other... how can you be truly sure that you love someone?

Don't get me wrong, love is not all about looks. It's not about the way someone smells, or the way they dance the tango. It's about the acceptance of a person as a whole, the feelings held for their mind, body and soul. An online love is just that - online. Of the ingredients of "love", there is only the mind, and that at no guarantee. A soul and a body cannot be given over the Internet.

An online relationship relies on an inherent trust that stems from the ability to portray yourself, and others, as any entity you so wish, with the assumption that the trust given would not be abused. Not so. There is no limitation to what you can exaggerate, mold, squish and pull into any seeming facade. There's no limit, bar your imagination to what you type and send across cyberspace.

Ultimately, there's no penalty to your (inter)actions online insofar as the way you portray yourself, as long as you keep it online. There's no worry that someone will judge you for how you look, how you talk, how you walk, where you were born, the race you were born as. There's a certain freedom that you may "walk the halls" with no preconceived notions.

But there's also the lack of acknowledgment of consequences, no penalty for lying. Not really. Sure, you can turn other virtual entities against you for the way you treat others, but switch off the monitor and you no longer have to look at their accusing text. Without having to look at them in the face, it loses some of the effect.

I can interact with my computer and simulate conversations I've held online with a fairly simple program. Sure, the conversation might not be quite so interesting, but I have the same guarantee talking to my program that I do talking to someone online- absolutely none at all.

There's no question that an online relationship can be possible. What I question is the seeming ease that some can state that they "love" an online entity. One they've never met. I don't understand how that can be possible.

Don't get me wrong, Internet relationships can be wonderful things, but they need to be accepted for what they really are - relationships with possibly like minded people, possibly of the age they portray, possibly of the gender they portray, and possibly of any other infinite number of things they tell you.

Selina Kelley is a member of our Staff Writers, and has recently joined us as an Editor.