The widespread diffusion of the Internet and of telematic tools more generally, has significantly changed the way we relate to other people and this also applies to love relationships.
Meetings on the web are more and more widespread, even on a sentimental level, but, compared to reality, the context in which two people are courting each other changes, so much so that we are no longer too surprised if to the question “Where did you meet?”, the two partners answer that the first contact took place electronically. The pressures of work and study have considerably reduced the time to devote to new knowledge through conventional methods; the online meeting takes place through the use of PCs, smartphones or tablets which today are among the indispensable objects for the daily life of each of us. But how does virtually “falling in love” work?
Usually, in a “real” relationship the first phases of courtship pass through bodily signals and messages: partners communicate through games of looks, gestures, facial mimicry; we can say that physical attraction is the element characterizing this first phase.
In the virtual approach, the bodily sphere is apparently absent, even if, in reality, it would be more correct to speak of a different “presence” of the body, it is in fact a significant element of online interactions: on internet, the non-verbal is communicated through writing which, thanks to the wide use of emoticons, becomes the tool to describe one’s physical appearance and the feelings related to it.
In chat, therefore, every game of seduction passes through the verbal and is much more symbolic and metaphorical; the chat becomes the space in which every intimate self-disclosure can be revealed without fear of the other’s judgment.
Some argue that it is impossible to love a person who has never met physically. They say that to love someone it is necessary to look them in the eye, to meet them personally. Actually, I believe that those who think this refers to mature love, the love that is built in time and with living together. But there is another kind of love, more youthful and impetuous, which can exist even when you don’t know a person physically. I am referring to people who fall in love after finding themselves on online dating sites, a phenomenon increasingly common in our time, since the Internet has eliminated geographical barriers. I am convinced that couples who get to know each other online and maintain more or less constant contact through the Internet can work. I personally know several cases that have not only arrived at marriage but even lived happily together for many years.
How can two people fall in love online? First of all, it is necessary to dispel the myth that the people you meet online are people built, fictitious, created just to seduce. In many cases, especially when people are very shy, they are able to show the best part of their “I” right through the computer screen, because they are able to break the ice, be friendly, kind, showing a thousand more features than they might have come up with during a physical encounter. Therefore, thanks to online dating sites many people are able to show their most interesting side and sometimes this is more than enough to seduce each other.
However, online dating often hides many gaps. Since we cannot decode all the extra-verbal information that is normally available during a physical meeting, a void is created, and this is where the projective mechanism of our mind comes into play. That is when there are information gaps our brain tends to fill them with the data we have collected during our life experience.
The interesting thing is that if we have positive expectations about our relationship with that person, we tend to project characteristics of ourselves onto that person. Simply put: you are lonely and looking for a partner, you don’t know the person you are communicating with online, but they are nice, so fill in the gaps and lack of information with characteristics you like in order to meet your expectations. Thus, the relationship continues and you feel that you have some things in common with the other person, and this helps to bring you closer. Result: you fall in love.
Obviously, later, getting to know each other better, you will be able to find out if the features you projected on the other are actually present. At this point, it is important to note that although the projection mechanism is perfectly normal, it is vitally important to be careful because this can create expectations that are too high, illusions that will not materialize and leave us disappointed.
One piece of advice: when you meet someone online and there is a spark between you, don’t be afraid to go on with the relationship, but try to fill these information gaps with real data. If you want to know something about the person, simply ask them. Remember that the projection is a double-edged sword.
What can be the advantages and disadvantages of a virtual meeting compared to a face-to-face meeting? The Internet offers the possibility of getting to know each other in “other places” than normal places and allows you to cross barriers and geographical boundaries. In “virtual reality” the time to interact and communicate is much faster than in real life, and this allows you to stay always “connected” with each other in an eternal present. In addition, the Internet offers the possibility to “select” people with high compatibility and common interests and to start an emotional connection, even before the physical one, allows you to reveal yourself without feeling judged.
Conversely, there is the idealization of the known online partner and the risk of favouring virtual relationships. There is the possibility that the interlocutor gives an image of himself that does not correspond to reality by falsifying or omitting important information about himself. The need to spend most of one’s time online becomes more and more important and one risks losing interest and neglecting the friendly or sentimental relationships that have been built in real life.
Despite this, many stories have been born thanks to the internet and have turned into long-lasting relationships and, without a shadow of a doubt, meeting and falling in love online will soon become just one of the possible scenarios for the formation of the couple: it will then be the task and willingness of the partners to succeed in making this “opportunity” turn into a strong and lasting bond.
Have you and your language exchange friends ever fallen in love with someone online? Do you think online dating can turn into “real” relationships? Let us know your opinions in the comments!
Written by: Martina Sassi, Staff Writer