Sex, Lies & the Internet by Melinda Sledge
Some psychiatrist believe that people online are "falling in love from the inside out", by sharing their thoughts and feelings before they reveal names, physical descriptions or geographic locations.
In Online Seductions a book written by Dr. Esther Gwinnell there are several case studies of couples who have met each other online and disclosed some of their most intimate secrets before meeting one another. In her book Dr. Gwinnell tells the story of how Kim Golden, a 29-year-old book buyer originally from Philadelphia, met her husband on the Internet in early 1993. A graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University at the time, she posted a message on a bulletin board. Someone from Sweden responded. For three weeks, they told each other things about one another that they had never even told their closest friends. After two months, they exchanged telephone numbers. After six months of corresponding with one another over the telephone, Torg Malmgren flew to Washington to visit her. She met him at Dulles Airport. "Just for a second everything in me tightened as I waited for him to come through passport approval, but then he smiled and I knew I wanted to be with him" Kim told Dr. Gwinnell. The Internet lovers married in May of 1995 and are now living in Stockholm.
Internet dating offers plenty of opportunities to meet that special someone, but what you see online is not always what you get in meat space. The Internet provides another forum for single people to meet and get to know one another.
To any single person the Internet provides a wealth of compatible partners. For example if the single person requirements are for a certain age, salary range, marital status all she or he has to do is specify and someone will respond who may meet those requirements.
By now, most people know someone who has had an online romance. Couples meet in chat rooms mostly under assumed names. And then they may move to a private room for a one-on-one keyboard conversation. At some point in time they may exchange their e-mail addresses or add one another to buddy lists and then correspond with one another directly. Eventually, some share their real names, telephone numbers, and photos and meet face to face.
Over the last two and a half months, I have been experimenting with chatting in different types of AOL chat rooms. I have explored chat rooms on travel and romance. In addition, I have found that when I started talking to an individual of the opposite sex privately from a chat room we start to talk about personal aspects of our lives. Such as our children, work, how the divorce affects our emotional well being. I would never discuss these topics with someone I met for the first time in a meatspace environment.
During the time I spent in the chat rooms I met four men. Each man was totally different but during my first keyboard conversation with each one I found myself talking about things I would have never talked about with someone in meat space for the first time. And then there was the first telephone conversation which three out of four times was a total disappointment. Three of the men were divorced and they where very emotional, needy, and distrustful of women. I had to listen to every little detail about their divorce, which may have taken place several years ago. Another reason I would lost interest over the phone was that the man may have told a lie on the Internet and when I asked him about the same question I got a different answer. For me this is a big turn off. The one thing I hate most in a man is the telling of lies.
Brad Stone author of Valley of the Doll-Less wrote a book about the Silicon Valley Millionaires who do not have time or have trouble meeting women. Brad interviewed a young Silicon Valley millionaire by the name of Chris Tablot. Chris described his Internet dating experience as having some drawbacks he states "One woman described herself in an e-mail as being nice and curvy". Then they met for dinner. "She must have weighed 250 pounds" proclaims Tablot who is a VP of technology at a semiconductor-testing company. Stone feels people using the Internet have a tendency to overemphasize or lie about their attractiveness to the point where it in ridiculous. He also warns women about married men who search the internet for women to start affairs with most of the time the women do not know the man is married with children.
Many therapists such as Esther Gwinnell the author of Online Seductions caution individuals about the psychodynamics of online dating. She believes Internet lovers are sharing a lot more than their blissful dreams for the future. When people are freed from face-to-face meetings they may be using the Internet to act out their fantasies or work out their demons.
An Internet romance does not focus on what two people like to read or eat. Many people find themselves flirting with a complete stranger something they would not normally if at all do in meat space. The messages they exchange often resemble X-rated dialogue of the phone sex trade. After two weeks of going on the World Wide Web every night I found myself addicted to the excitement of meeting someone new every night.
While the internet allows people to look and find love and/or lust partners, many mental health experts are starting to become concerned that the combination of anonymity and intimacy will play havoc with individuals meatspace personal relationships. I did not find this happening in my own case, but I am sure this must take place.
I do agree with the mental health expert Esther Gwinnell comment about people acting out their fantasies. I feel there are other questions which also need to be addressed about online dating that people have not began to face. Such as does online dating promise a more lasting spiritual, intelligent, compatible relationship? Or does online dating promote, unstable relationships based on lies about looks, financial status, marital status and things people like to do?
In Madeline Sabol book Youve Got Male she writes about several relationships she has had with men she met over the Internet. She describes her book as being a book of rules for women who are looking for a man over the Internet. She devotes a chapter of her book to each man she has met and the rules she has used to deal with each individual man. Many of the men she describes in her book are cruel, selfish and self centered. She met most of the men in the chat rooms.
When she used an Internet dating service, the type of man she met was more human. She concluded that relationship over the Internet start out great, you might think you have found your soul mate, but nothing will take the place meeting and getting to know a person face to face.
In the ideal world for singles the combination the meatspace and Internet would be perfect for starting a new relationship. If we could combine a two-way camera with our computer and the computer of a prospective person, I do not think we would waste so much time falling in love from the inside out with the wrong person. Essentially people who are in Internet relationships are writing in their diaries when they compose a message to their Internet lovers. In actuality, they are romancing themselves.
Sex, Lies & the Internet
Writing Workshop I
April 29, 2000
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Rosenberg, Helena (1998). How to Get Married After 35. New York: HarperCollins.
Stone, Brad (1999) Valley of the Doll-Less. New York: HarperCollins
Sabol, Madelene (1998) You've Got Male. Denver: Write Way Publishing.
Gwinnell, Esther (1998) Online Seductions. Kodansha International