Honesty is a trait that most people value. It’s such an important value that different levels of dishonesty can lead to punishment, imprisonment, or even death. Yet in this Age of Social Media, there are avenues online wherein otherwise shy or awkward people can don virtual masks and meet. Welcome to Dating in 2012.
Internet ups and downs
Take the example of Gaius, a 20-something who practically grew up with every recent major technological advance at his fingertips. Regarding a Facebook stalker he once had, Gaius initially thought that the person adding him was an acquaintance of a common friend. “It turns out she was just one of those people that just adds everyone she sees,” he laments. “She just wouldn't leave me alone and she started to get pretty psycho too. It got so bad that I was pretty close to changing my email address and cell number.”
Gaius wasn’t just the subject of cyber-stalking, however. He’s also fallen in love with someone whom he only met online. “The hardest one was falling for a girl all the way in Arizona,” he relates. “I wrote a poem and laid it out on canvass and Fed Ex'd it to her. I should have known that it wasn't going to work that way, really.”
Further highlighting how much Gaius has used the Internet and its adjacent technological tools in socializing, he sadly shares that he once broke up with a girl via chat on Yahoo Messenger. “It was seriously the weakest moment in my life,” he begins. “I didn't know what to say, so I had another YM box open where I'd copy/paste our conversation to another conversation with a friend who was giving me tips on how to let her down easy and avoid whatever 'traps' she might put in my way.”
In consulting with psychologist Dr. Randy Dellosa, it turns out that Gaius’ experiences aren’t limited to twentysomethings or even thritysomethings. In fact, the age range is as low as pre-teens to as high as seniors. Meeting and dating online is such a normal thing now that Gaius’ situations aren’t so strange to hear about anymore.
Cover ups and dishonesty
There are, however, some inherent negative qualities to maintaining relationships strictly online. Dr. Dellosa says that bulletin board forums, chatrooms, and social media attract very specific types of people and sometimes, these are people who are socially inept. “For some of these cyberdaters, it can be seen as a desperate move to meet people online,” he says, “because it’s the only venue they have where they feel comfortable. When they’re online they can cover up their personality.”
When asked if he would consider dating via cyberspace again in the future, Gaius responds with a resounding “Definitely! Half of the people I cherish are people I met online. Romantic relationships aside, I've made some solid friends. It's amazing because these relationships hold as much value to me as much as my actual relationships.”
Dr. Dellosa notes that though Gaius has had mostly positive experiences dating online, there is a downside to continuously doing so. “Some people are only honest online,” he warns. “Everyone is operating on the assumption that they’re telling the truth but some people are out there to manipulate others.”
It’s always a good story to hear that two people who met online ended up living happily ever after, but in Dr. Dellosa’s experience, not everyone gets their storybook ending. “Some hit it off well,” he begins, “but once the affair moves from cyberspace to real life, there's a possibility that it may fall apart. These relationships are akin to long distance relationships or ‘OFW affairs’ wherein once they start living together, it’s not the same as it was when strictly online.”
Clearly, dating has evolved quite a bit since the Internet has become so ubiquitous. To say that the rules have changed would be a huge understatement. Though there are definite harmful elements out there, as in real life, there are good opportunities to not just get into relationships but even to form lasting friendships. And though Gaius would argue that he tends to be more truthful online, not everyone is quite as sincere.