The Psychology of Internet Romance - online vs offline
The psychology of romantic internet relationships has been debated among friends, media, and even those who have had the experience. In an effort to understand the way people interact via the web and other forms of impersonal forms of communication, I did some investigating.
There are several websites dedicated to claiming that they can find that “special someone” for you. I recently posted an article about the murder of a transgender person that met via the website mocospace.
I understand that in that particular situation the murder was motivated due to the man’s allegation that he believed he was meeting a woman.
When he found out differently, he went into a rage.
I should also mention that the articles I have done involving the missing (and later found deceased) woman (Katherine Waring) in South Carolina was partially motivated by the fact that I knew of the recently indicted Heather Angelica Kamp via the internet. Kamp was more acquainted with a friend of mine who introduced us. I met him via the web and he met her the same way.
The media will often follow the shocking and bizarre stories of people meeting via the web and the shocking outcome of some of those situations, but I have also known several people that have met using “match.com”, “e Harmony”, and other sites that “find” suitable people for you. In all of those cases, I know of at least two of them who are now married, have a child and seem completely compatible and truly in love.
I decided to do my own research and find out what these sites use to locate your so-called “perfect match.” I chose Yahoo for the simple reason that they offered “free personal ads.”
Since my intention wasn’t to actually meet anyone. As important as thorough research is to a story and valid to any good article or story, I opted for the “free” service. It also seemed unnecessary to pay for something that I can get the answers to for free.
What I found out very quickly was that the process is longer than I expected. I felt like I was filling out a resume for a particular job or possibly an application for a car loan. I am not sure which one.
The first question that you must answer is whether you are legitimately single. You must agree to pursue people for a relationship and not something less than that. I must agree to report anyone that is behaving in a solicitous manner. “Spamming” or promoting any type of “escort service” is not allowed on the site.
Then I had to answer a multitude of questions about myself.
The list included my income range, education, body type, eye color, height, hair color, religious preference, political views, interest in finding a match in distance to the area that I live in and whether I had children and/or wanted more children. I had to give my status as “single,” either “divorced” or “separated.”
The last option puzzled me. I thought that “separated,” meant that legally you are still involved and I felt like that was in the gray area.
Once I had clicked on the correct options provided. I had to “tell them about me.” I was asked to give as much information as possible.
I wasn’t finished yet, however. Yahoo kept reminding me that “profiles with pictures” get 600 more clicks than someone “without a profile picture.” They gave you 10 possible uploads for photos.
They also stated that the photos should be a true representation of you. Old photos and overly photo-edited pictures weren’t appropriate. “Your perfect match wants to know what you look like now. Photos should only be a few months old.”
Yahoo made it clear that nudity was not acceptable and that pictures should be a variety of what represents you best. An example of “great representation” is through a variety of pictures. Pictures taken of you at work, involved in an activity, pictures with your pet, etc.
Yahoo personals said that the best selections of pictures are those that tell a story about your life and interest. They recommended that you add a caption. They said “a picture is worth a thousand words” and you should help people to determine which one of the words best suits you.
After what seemed like a life long journey into the questionnaires of “who I am” and “what I want”, I was asked to “submit” my profile for review. They said it would be 24 hours before it would be available for other members to see online.
I was asked to click “next.”
Yahoo asked how I would like to PAY for the replies I received on my profile and my ability to respond back. Wait, I thought they said it was free. I laughed to myself when I realized that I could only be “seen and not heard.” I’m guessing that was a man’s idea. I’m teasing so male readers don’t be offended. I could not resist that.
At the end of my experience, I kept imagining that this list of questions could possibly be the future template for parents who want to predetermine their future child.
If it could be genetically manipulated based on gender, eye color, hair color, and intelligence, all the parent would have to do is choose the one they liked best.
Am I overstating the simplicity of “matching personality types” and am I being biased? I can only answer from my own experience as a person answering a questionnaire.
There did seem to be more science involved than romantic intuition. The reason I say that is very simple. If you chose to put down the mileage from your home as 5 miles, 10 miles, but not more than 50+ miles and your “perfect match” is 600 miles away. Well, you just excluded them from your list.
If you said that you wanted a college degree as a “must have” and the person who would have been a “perfect match” didn’t get their degree, then you have excluded them based on your answer.
Yahoo searches based on your criteria and excluded those that you didn’t consider a good match.
After going through the process of “picking out a suitable match,” I decided to give the entire internet relationship idea a closer look.
The psychology aspect of internet dating should be given some consideration. After all psychologists created many of the things, these sites are using to determine suitable matches.
To my surprise, I ended up with more questions than answers.
According to some, the fascinating trend, of internet romance, is a form of dissociative behavior.
The implication that it is dissociative means that there is a “disconnect.” A disconnect in this circumstance would be between what people consider "physical reality" and what they consider "virtual reality.”
This confounded me.
How can so many people be attracted to dating sites and other means of "meeting" others if they aren't considering the behavior as "real".
Evidently, the problem occurs when people are relating to each other. As they begin to share intimate details about themselves, one of two things can occur.
First, they give a "sells" pitch as if interviewing for a job. Second, they are too open and tell all their secrets, sins, past mistakes and it gives them a sense of bonding.
It's only fair to mention that people in general tend to put a positive spin on themselves. People tend to portray themselves in an ideal way instead of being more open about their flaws. I understand this aspect.
If I want to sell my car, I'm going to advertise the benefits of owning the car. I'm going to point out the best features and I'm going to gloss over the dent in the fender. It's the same with job interviews.
If I'm interviewing a potential employee and they come into the office unkempt, poorly dressed and proceed to tell me that they intend to be late to work and never turn their projects in on time. I’m going to say that the interview is over.
I'm going to toss the resume. I need a responsible and reliable employee. I will be looking for the dependable employee and not the slacker. (Even though deep down, I may appreciate them for not wasting my time. I find immediate honesty more refreshing than having to wait to find out that they are unreliable, irresponsible, and undependable. The truth they shared with me the moment I interviewed them.)
So is there a problem with internet romance? Unfortunately, it's the same problem people will find off the internet. The flaws are in human nature and that is what defeats us once again.
People lie, deceive, and trick others for approval, self-gain and just for the fun of it. People who feel inferior will inflate their abilities and show great confidence.
Online people will "speak" boldly. They may use words with less care and caution than if they were facing the person. Looking into someone's eyes has been replaced with a computer screen and the words on them.
People who are more closed off and quiet are often more critical and opinionated. Things that they would typically be too shy to say (in person) are SHOUTED IN ALL CAPS. The person's persona online often varies from what they are in their everyday life.
However, there are those that feel like they aren't "speaking" to someone virtually but they feel like they are making a real bond. They feel a connection based on their own needs and wants. How can that be? How can a computer offer more intimacy than the traditional methods of meeting someone?
I would presume that sometimes people feel so isolated by their circumstances that they feel traditional methods of meeting others isn't an option.
Perhaps, they are seeking a personal connection without judgment based on their appearance, employment, living arrangements, or the car they drive. Basically, they are trying to sell the inside and bypass the things that people deal with on an everyday basis.
In these situations-- internet romance is a way for them to expose the truth about their lives. Maybe they are recently divorced and going out into the world to find someone else seems too far out of reach at the moment?
Perhaps it's a single mom who had a baby or a mom with more than one young child? Children often limit the amount of time adults have for each other and that isn't limited to single parents. A married couple with children can tell you from experience that children often change the routine.
Schedules change once the children come along and those "adult activities" are quickly limited to when the kids are asleep or a baby sitter can be located. So perhaps, there is a select group of people that find the internet to be a place that romance could and would be found if they looked hard enough?
I asked a friend of mine who is actively seeking companionship through the internet what the appeal is.
She said, "I'm looking for someone who likes me as a person." I had to dig deeper and ask her about the alternative. Meeting someone, first and then letting them discover her wonderful personality and the things that make her unique. She was very candid with me. She said what thousands of other women say. They say it to themselves or to their best friend.
She said, "What if he thinks I'm not attractive on the outside?"
She's an extremely attractive woman. She's smart and has a nurturing and fun personality. I was stunned. I have often thought of women and men who use internet dating (as the only alternative) because of a lack of physically attractive attributes, limited connection to the outside world and several other obscure reasons as I mentioned previously.
That was my misguided biased opinion and it was wrong.
I've learned from several friends who said they prefer "internet romance" to the alternative.
The alternative is meeting someone in person first. They all said that revealing the truth about them online is more appealing than doing it to someone's face. I went back to my friend and asked her.
She said, "What if they don't approve of something I say? What if they look at me like I'm crazy?" Something about that made me feel like self-esteem was at the heart-of-the-matter. Then I remembered the dates I had with the first person I had fallen in love with.
I was completely smitten, but I was also nervous. I felt like I was standing out on that proverbial limb and that if I took the plunge I might be taking it alone. It scared me.
I concluded that insecurities are prevalent in the beginning of any relationship. It doesn't matter how or where it started. It's a frightening feeling to be scrutinize and judged when you want someone in particular to approve of you.
However, this is where the issue of insecurity should be mentioned. There are levels of insecurity. There is the issue of being insecure and dealing with it. Then there is the level of insecurity that reaches the point of hiding behind the walls of your home.
Then there are those that would rather lie or invent a "better version" of them than allow others to see the "real" person.
For example, I'm insecure about my height and my figure. I'm a 5'3 Shorty. But I have a medium size frame. In my opinion that just isn't fair. That means instead of being "petite" I'm always going to look like I have "meat on my bones". I believe that's the expression that someone used to describe me.
I won't raise my hand for a bikini contest, but I wouldn't let it stop me from going to the beach in a cute one piece swimsuit that enhances my assets and down plays my flaws. People have levels of insecurities about thousands of things! I've heard someone say, "I hate my laugh."
What matters is how you deal with your insecurities. If I avoided the world and hid behind this computer with the screen name "tall-and-skinny" and in the "about me" section, I say that I'm very tall, very thin, very petite and so on, I'm not just lying about myself. I'm creating an imagine for someone else.
Does it hurt anyone if I'm not those things? Perhaps, it does if I'm attempting a romantic relationship online. It would be fall into the category of deception. Why would it be deception?
Because you created something that wasn't real and shared it with others as fact. A better version of yourself is fine if you are attempting to improve on it as you go and you share that part as well.
However, a better version of you without any effort is just a lie wrapped in a string of words when it comes to online and offline relationships.
Online romances are intriguing because of the unique aspect of not "knowing" the person you are attempting to create a bond.
People who are deeply insecure will look for love even though they may have created an alternate online identity.
As an example, if a man feels inadequate, unaccomplished, and insecure, he may claim that he is successful, confident and takes great pride in boasting about his "imagined" accomplishments.
In reality, he is a 40 years old, part-time employee with no dreams of a better future and no dreams of future possibilities. He may be living in his mom's basement and a closet alcoholic with a history of Driving under the Influence.
He can rationalize that his "online persona" is harmless because "They don't know me.” He can continue to hide behind lies to make him seem like a successful and happy person to virtual strangers.
He may be able to convince people on the internet that he's a wealthy, successful person and lives a lavish lifestyle, but what happens when he has thoroughly convinced someone that he is this made up character?
What if he continues to keep lying and makes plans on meeting the female he thinks is a great match for him?
What if she has been open and honest and feels like she knows him very well? Perhaps she thinks this person knows her better than anyone and truly likes her personality.
It seems like a recipe for disaster. Who gets hurt the most in a situation like that? Is it the person that is so deeply insecure about who they really are that they can’t be happy without creating something more exciting? Is it the person who has given more answers that are honest and yet finds herself in a situation that wasn’t “real.”
There are two distinct ways of looking at it.
One feels like, “They don't know me." so it's okay to embellish and the other feels like they have confided everything and therefore the person, "Knows me better than anyone."
Both of them are attempting to find someone who will like and accept them. Both of them want to reveal themselves in some capacity without feeling like there are consequences.
How are bonds created from words on a computer screen or cell phone? When you read a message or write a message do you use your own internal voice as you go? Most people do.
This adds an element of intimacy. In some situations, a man receiving a message from a female may attribute a female's voice to the female writing them. This also creates a feeling of familiarity and comfort.
Another way for people to feel close and more personal in internet chatting are terms that aren't physically possible, but people use the expressions anyway.
"See you later.”
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Seeing implies sight and hearing implies listening. Neither one of those sayings are mentioned as impossible because it takes away from the intimacy.
People often feel a connection to someone else based off their own beliefs, bias, likes, dislikes, personality traits, sense of humor and the list goes on. People have a tendency to assign personality traits to the other person as well.
They may view the persons online personality as being something they seek in their own lives.
A sense of humor, a sense of adventure, witty banter and a healthy sprinkling of "lol's" are often interpreted as general happiness and likability.
Who doesn't like being around a happy person instead of a sad person?
However, if the person isn't actually smiling or laughing the person reading it doesn't know the difference. They can only imagine it. The more in agreement a person is with someone the stronger the bond.
The stronger the bond is the closer the intimacy. Things become complicated in our world of "online vs. offline” when one of them is in a relationship in the "real world.”
There are terms for this type of relationship. "Online affairs" are considered "emotional affairs" because unless the people have met it's not as much about sex as it is the emotional connection.
Oddly enough (or perhaps not so odd) a person who has been betrayed in this way, describe it the same way as a person who had it happen offline. Perhaps it’s because the internet relationship can delve into the emotional aspects of "love.”
The trust is broken when you doubt your partners intentions, actions, and words. People who are cheated on “offline” feel like there is someone intruding on the emotional and physical bond, fondness, attachment, and love that make a relationship healthy.
After an "online affair" is revealed, the partner describes resentment, suspicion, and jealousy. The same emotions attributed to a person who has gone through the "physical reality" of it.
This is a betrayal to the bond that a couple shares. A partner who “cheated” and took another lover is similar to the emotional betrayal of “online affairs.”
This worst part of this investigation has been that I have found nothing conclusive in either direction. Whether, romantic internet relationships work or if they only contribute to more problems are still open to debate.
There are success stories and horror stories on both sides. I suppose the bottom line to any relationship no matter what type it is... is honesty.
How honest are they being with you and how can you know? How honest are you being with the other person? If your intentions are to find that “perfect match” and you are serious about seeking them via the internet. It appears to be a personal choice based solely on the discretion of the individual who is looking.
The most important aspect to consider when you use the internet as a mode of creating relationships is the trust factor. However, that can be said about the internet as easily as it can be said about meeting someone offline.
How many men or women met offline and found out that their partner was not what they expected after all? How many relationships end because they are not compatible?
While the psychology of internet romance is still debatable and the conclusion of whether it works better than the traditional methods is undecided. It can be said that the person seeking love, romance, and passion online has the same odds as those who seek it offline. Love and romance is going to elude some people and happen instantly for others.
The best I can offer to people looking for love, whether it is online or offline is my wish of luck and fortune in finding what you seek. Perhaps you will get lucky in love and find your perfect match via the internet.
However, for those of you have tried the internet and it worked out disadvantageously for you I send you my sincerest condolences.
In the end, it doesn’t seem to matter how or where you find the person that you mistakenly thought was your “knight in shining armor.” Especially when it turns out that, they are actually at the bottom of the proverbial barrel and wrapped in tin foil. The same can be said for the men who didn’t find the princess of their dreams, but instead found a wicked witch whose sole purpose seems to be feeding men to their egos.
No matter how you dice it, true love and intimacy are priceless. It’s one of the human races most basic desires. The desire to be loved, accepted, and shown affection will always exist, but caution can never be under rated especially in matters of the heart.