Thanks to the late 20th century technology the Danish Maria and Martijn of Holland met on a chatline. For months they've talked and sent letters to each other with the help of their computers as they found themselves falling head over heels in love. It was then they've decided to meet in the real, not only the virtual, world. It was not easy to arrange as the young man and his lady were separated by 700 very real kilometers, but the date was a success and Maria and Martijn have been living together happily ever since. They've created a home page to let the world know how they've found happiness via the Internet and introduce couples who've met under similar circumstances.
MsGreenFields had hoped for a similar romance when she met her love on the internet. They've arranged to meet. The lonely young woman felt she'd finally found the man with whom she can live with in harmony and realize her dreams. Their personalities and interests were so similar and even their goals seemed to match well. She was not disappointed in his physical appearance either - the man was elegantly dressed, and the romantic champagne dinner, dance and the man's compliments and attention toward her during the evening all served to fuel her feelings of happy expectation. What could have been the happiest of nights turned into a nightmare when they got to her apartment. The man she just spent a wonderful evening with turned into Mr. Hyde and brutally raped her and disappeared. She didn't even have the opportunity to report the incident to the police. What could she have said about the man she knew only as StandByMe through electronic contact and who supposedly, just arrived from Las Vegas. More than likely, StandByMe continues to prowl cyberspace looking for new victims probably under a new nickname and, of course, unpunished.
These two stories are merely two samples of the many experiences you may find on different web sites that feature the topic cyberlove.
Throughout history men and women had used a variety of means to find each other. Internet romance according to some is a bizarre method, and others it is a 'natural' for the 90's, to meet potential mates. Reading enough pages of people's experiences one could consider a decent length novel, has formed an interesting picture in me of internet romance.
Romances formed on the internet follow a characteristic script. The development of emotional intimacy is a long process, sometimes taking several months. "Love at first byte" is rare although there are examples (Steven J. Baumrucher wrote a book by that title recounting his own experiences details of which may be read on the net). The initial light exchanges, whether by e-mail or in chat rooms, are generally followed by increasingly self revealing topics, where after a while the two strangers perceive each other as a true friend. Hearts open and an avalanche of e-mail crosses cyberspace carrying literary quality, electric messages are even enhanced with verses, virtual gifts (flowers, kisses, animated pictures). Could any heart with romantic inclinations resist? When you reach for the mouse with sweaty palms and butterflies in the stomach to look in the in-box for new mail - there's just no way to escape the fact - love has arrived.
In more fortunate cases the couple exchanged digitalized photos of themselves through the course of correspondence. This helps to ease the jolt of the initial meeting - which is a critical moment in every cyber love story. It is easy to understand if you realize what hopes and ideals our hero nursed up to that moment. (This reminds me of my colleague who showed up to meet his blind date - through a newspaper ad. He stood on the corner as agreed with a bouquet of roses when the girl approached. Poor Bela could not have slipped away unnoticed, but had a quick escape by saying - 'hello, unfortunately my friend could not come, but he wanted you to have these flowers.) Mr. Romeo must have felt far worse when after corresponding with his e-mail love for the past six months stepped off the plane to find out that she is not really a she, but a transvestite. That was the one minor detail his 'sweetheart' neglected to mention.
Whether in real life or in cyber space, there is real pain and disappointment that accompanies love or what was presumed as love. Many chose anonymity of meeting electronically thinking the distance provides a cushioning from the usual pains of a relationship. This is not true. Those who don't observe the rules of caution can suffer real and long healing scars. If we want to protect ourselves from the possible traps it would be useful to visit the romancesite.com website, where we can find many good advice and useful tips on 'how' and 'how not' to meet or flirt on the net. The web page contains real stories giving an opportunity to learn from the mistake of others and have a better chance to recognize the suspicious characters lurking in cyberspace.
Don't think the only danger to your emotions is the lies your partner may tell. Sometimes it may be what we do to delude ourselves that bring negative consequences. While these internet relationships are real enough the invisibility of the partner must be countered somehow and this results in generous doses of fantasizing for some people. There are those who easily lend themselves to daydreaming and loose their sense of reality. These people are prone to adorn their loved one with characteristics and appearance of a hero from a novel. It is difficult to escape from this dream back into reality unharmed. After the first kiss the prince turns into a frog and the story comes to an unexpected conclusion.
How does a cyber romance vary from a real life romance? Perhaps one significant difference is that communication plays such a large part. Words that convey feelings have enormous effect. While before a real date we fix our hair and our clothes, on the internet we polish our intellect, imagination and personality. In essence the sequence is reversed - first we show our inner beauty and only after it had won victory does the veil fall off the physical vehicle of that personality at the time of that first meeting in person.
It is a popular topic in cyberspace to debate whether or not true love can develop merely on an intellectual level, that is without the physical attraction, the familiarity of the other's appearance? To put it another way: is the physical appearance of the man or woman play a part in the relationship if through the exchange of thoughts and feelings they already fell in love?
Many say it is against the nature of love to be deprived of the sense of sight, the look, the movement, the body language being present. There are those, of course, who favor internet relationships claiming that the intensity of the emotional relationship that develops in such a way is superior to the mere stirring of the flesh.
Whatever the opinion may be on cyberlove - it must be said in favor of the internet that it puts people in touch with people that otherwise would never have met. I never would have suspected that the first person I met by e-mail would be a German chimney sweep to whom after a year of correspondence, although no emotional, but a common interest still binds.
There are examples where a real life relationship is damaged because one party gets entangled in a virtual romance that may turn serious. I remember a local newspaper carrying a story of a mother of three, who left her husband and children to live with a man who webbed her heart through cyberspace. Her story is not singular by any means. Ann Landers established a club for men and women who perceive the net as the demon that destroyed their marriage or lost their partner because they discovered Mr. or Ms. Right on the web. These letters and Ann Landers' responses may be found online at the Chicago Tribune web site.
It is silly to perceive the net as a demon, when we determine how we meet its challenges. While there are those who can use the net to their advantage extracting useful information, there are those who become addicts losing common sense, hopping from chat room to chat room, writing piles of e-mails full of lies to chosen victims and the virtual reality, the flirtations become a part of their everyday lives as some disease. One thing is true - the net is very addictive. According to the confession of a multiple substance addict, it was easier to give up cocaine than the IRC.
If, despite all we've said, there are those who still chose the internet as the means to find a partner, they can try the numerous IRC channels, Java chat rooms, the ICQ, online matching service, correspondence groups or in a variety of mailing lists and newsgroups (alt.romance, alt.soulmates) or place their graphically constructed personal home page on-line through which one may convey to the world any information desired. There are many available choices, one need only live with the opportunity.
In any case - be cautious that you don't end up like Mr. Romeo. Keep your eyes open off-line as well - turn off the machine and go to a dance or a club, because most women still expect to be courted in a real, old fashioned, romantic way.