Romance Online: Emotional Survival Guide.
My first exposure to romance online happened on AOL, in chatrooms, years ago. The first time I entered a chatroom, I was transfixed. This is so cool, I thought. What a great way to meet people! Well folks, this is your emotional survival guide for the world of romance online.
Little did I know I was risking my emotional survival in my quest for romance online. I was venturing into a snake pit where guaranteed anonymity gave rise to all manner of behaviors that you just could not get away with in ordinary life. It wasn't long before I realized chatrooms were the venue of choice for liars, cheating spouses, thieves and all manner of bad boys and girls.
At the time I discovered AOL, I was living alone in a remote, sparsely-populated part of the United States. It occurred to me this new electronic medium had great possibilities for meeting a really great girl. And so I made the attempt. I made the decision to find a worthwhile romance online.
I did talk to thousands. I met some ladies face to face. But for a very long time, I didn't find anyone from online who proved to be real, and that I felt really comfortable and highly compatible with. Oh, I THOUGHT I had found ladies who would be perfect. But I discovered there is often a big gap between the fantasy and the reality.
Online, you can pretend to be anyone you like. Even if you are lying about everything, you are safe. Nobody can prove you're lying. There is no actual retribution for misbehavior. It is extremely unlikely that someone will physically assault you for your misdeeds. Online, you can play games that hurt people. You can play sadistic games for your own amusement and manipulate the emotions of people who haven't yet discovered what sort of minefield chatrooms are.
And then, when you lose interest, you can vanish. And perhaps come back under a new screen name to do it all over again to someone else.
Romance online can
be just plain hurtful. People you chat with online can cause real injury
to your soul if you let them. How does that work? It happens when you
allow yourself to become emotionally vulnerable. If you get hurt by someone
you fall for online, it's really your own fault for being gullible.
Key to emotionally surviving the chat experience is maintaining a healthy skepticism about those you meet online. And you must maintain that skepticism until you have reason to drop it.
In other words, those you meet online should be regarded as guilty until proven innocent. Why? Because there is no accountability and thus those you talk with online have no big incentive to be honest and forthright with you. If you get your feelings hurt online, what recourse do you have? Write an email to AOL to complain? You need to use your head when seeking romance online.
On AOL, I had the experience of being approached by quite a few women who expressed serious interest in me. We would chat online, sometimes for weeks, but very seldom would the conversation be taken to the phone. Stupidly, I would allow these chats to go on endlessly without insisting we cut it off and move the conversations to the phone. I wasted a LOT of time talking to these women.
Eventually it dawned on me that I was just being played for a fool. Not wishing to squander any more time in fruitless chats, I changed tactics. When some woman and I began talking online and found each other of interest, I would set a deadline. After two or three days, I'd simply tell her that I would like to speak with her by phone. "If you're interested, call me." Or I could call her.
I discovered that 90% of the time they would instantly vanish amid a shower of all kinds of excuses. It turns out that millions of AOL women had modems, but seemingly none of them had phones or long distance service or this or that or whatever. The bottom line is, real people use telephones. Making the call is an essential component of the process of getting acquainted with someone. If they won't do that, then it's pointless.
This turned out to be a great way to save time. Make the call and we can move forward. Don't make the call and you're out of my mind altogether.
And it's also a way to find out whether you should trust this person you've been chatting with online. Until the person responsible for making the squiggles on your computer screen that you find so enchanting comes out of the deep shadows of anonymity, you haven't any reason to trust or invest your emotions.
There's more. Phone access is a two-way street. You should be able to call that person, and that person should be able to call you, day or night, at home and at work. If all you get is a beeper number, or voice mail when you try to call, or you can't call this person at home, probably something is amiss. You would be well advised to be suspicious.
I used the same approach with my girlfriend. She had a personal ad on AOL (yes, it did mention she is TS). I answered her ad, sent over a picture, mentioned some things about me, was polite. I provided my phone number and said that if she were interested, to please call me. We ended up emailing back and forth a few times. She was comfortable with communicating that way and wanted to continue writing back and forth for a while. I didn't.
Apparently I became short with her and wrote something like, "Look, if you're interested, just call me." That remark came out of unfortunate experiences with the flakes I'd encountered online, and didn't sit at all well with her. She thought I was being arrogant. She did call, and we ended up going out on a very enjoyable dinner date. She told me later she had planned to chew me out for insisting she call me before she was ready to.
At the time I write this, July 24, 2003, we have been together almost 22 months.
When it comes to online romance, it's important to understand the online environment. Understand that the cyber world is very unlike the world you live in every day.
The key to surviving emotionally online is to not to prematurely commit emotionally. Be rational about this. If there is genuine interest on the part of both of you, then you should take your budding relationship into the real world within a firm, near-future time frame. Each of you owes it to the other to prove that you're real. If one of you will not commit to doing that, then there is a problem. To ignore that problem invites emotional injury.
And nobody wants to spend days crying or feeling depressed over love lost as well as feeling foolish.
I reserve all publication rights on this article, but feel free to forward it to anyone you like. Copyright 2003, all publication rights reserved.
The topic of this page is Romance Online, an Emotional Survival Guide.