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The Shallow Waters of Online Relationships

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It is an illusion we want. When we walk beside a rose bush, we touch the rose. “Oh, it is so beautiful!” We make lovely bouquets with it and present it to near and dear ones on occasion. However, the very same rose bush has thorns. These thorns are not as pretty as the rose, though every rose bush has them. We do not, however, accept these thorns. Even one prick would instantly make us forget all the beauty of the rose bush and hate it instantly. Yet again, in an instant we are drawn to the flower and its beauty, and we loathe that it has to have those thorns.

Such is our demand for a world of convenience that we wish to change everything around us. As our understanding of the world around us increases in its complexity and dimensions, it becomes easier for us to manipulate, or rather design, our surroundings and ourselves. At it’s most basic level, the need or the desire to remodel the world around us stems from our instinct of self-preservation. We do not want to feel threatened in any way from the elements.

This is the same with online relationships. If you have been on the Internet long enough, then you would inevitably have had the opportunity to become friends through with people from around the world. I have been on the Internet since 1997 and that by far is a very long time. I have tried every form of chatting to include the simple java based webchat, Internet Relay Chat, the online messengers of today, and metaverses.

The greatest lesson I have learnt from these relationships is that they never last. The number one reason is how relationships develop. It develops very quickly and ends just as fast. People keep searching for others who share their own interests and the kind of “perfect” people they do not get to meet in their real lives. They put a lot of expectation into this relationship.

In the more concrete real world relationship, friends are not sugar coated. You are often exposed to all the facets of a person’s character, including their good and bad sides. On the Internet however, it is a very shallow relationship. People would make friends with you since they fancy your style or charisma. Once they get to know you for a longer period of time, you end up inevitably telling them your troubles and your frustrations. The majority of online friends have very little patience to listen to your problems. They would eventually find some reason to break off the relationship.

The reason is very simple and it is mostly the ease with which these relationships can be terminated: all they have to do is erase the person’s data from their computer, online portfolios, and messenger lists, and poof, they are gone forever. Once they do that, they send a nice rosy email that would appear very decent on the outside but is filled with the hidden meaning that the person no longer wishes to be contacted again. They then immediately find another partner with their likes and dislikes at the click of a mouse on any given social networking website.

Most of the people who do such rapid switching have often been burned in the past in their real lives. They may have had bad relationships or they may be people who cannot understand that a person is not always rosy and has their bad spells, too. They think life is a freaking fairy tale where the prince is always charming. The moment the prince stops smiling, they get bored and expel them from their lives, or rather drop them from their towers.

It is extremely rare to find an online friend who goes beyond the “Aww, I’m so sorry to hear that, hon” expression and really spends time with you in your darkest hours. The moment you show your anger or your frustration, they sever their ties with you and start a relationship with another person.

Thus, online relationships are very shallow. To a person who is not centered and faces such shallow relationships, they would lose their confidence in relating to people in the real world. They would see the person who deserted them online in the real world and this would ruin any chances they have in their real, concrete lives.

The people who rapidly sever ties with online friends do not realize the potential damage they may be doing to another person’s life. For them, the trouble is over and they move on with their box of charms to another victim. To the victim, it takes a long time to heal, especially in situations where they may not have a loved one to tell these things to. This is part of the reason why people who spend a lot of time on the Internet fail to relate properly to people in the real world.

What is the remedy? Online relationships should simply be taken only as far as making simple friendships to learn about cultures, traditions, or common hobbies. It may also be a good idea to continue a relationship forged in real lives online, such as a spouse who is away on a business trip would continue their romances via video conferencing. However, it is always risky and mostly stupid to search for a real life partner through chat rooms or virtual worlds since most of these people are extremely shallow and only want to see the rosy and romantic sides of life and have no patience to listen to your troubles.

To the broken hearted, you must think of yourself as the rose bush. It is a shallow person who only likes your flowers. The real people would not mind getting pricked once in a while as they like you for who you are.

As for the rose plant, the most remarkable thing is that the rose plant does not care! It continues to bloom in all its glory with all its thorns. Remember, it is the thorns that protect the rose plant from casual passers-by from plucking their most valued asset. So, choose carefully to whom you give your flowers.

Parents must protect their teenage children from such emotional damage. Not all online relationships are bad, but people should not place all their hopes on the Internet to find the relationships of their choice. The real world is still a far richer place for finding real people.

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About V.R.Manoj

  • Xhe

    doin’ a bit of generalizing there, ay? I’ve met quite a few people online whom I’ve formed more than superficial relationships with. I even married one.

    That said, I never go ‘in search of’ people in chatrooms and such. Most of the people I’ve befriended online I’ve met through mutual participation in charity events and the like.

    The people you meet in cyberspace are the same people you meet in realtime. They’re people, and some of them are shallow, and some are intelligent, thoughtful, interesting and kind. I’ve made online friends who stuck with me during one of the worst periods of my life, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same for them.

    I suppose if you’re hanging out in chatrooms or on myspace, its unlikely you’ll meet anyone beyond the ‘hotgirl946’ variety.

    A true friend is a treasure, no matter where you find them. True friends are as rare in real life as they are in cyberspace. Face to face interaction can be shallow, or it can be meaningful. Same thing in cyberspace. Cyberspace just gives us another way to connect, if we choose to connect.

    It just sounds to me like you’ve been hurt by someone online, and have decided its all a sham. Better luck next time.

  • Hiya ! Thanks for your comments.Yes, it is a reflection of past and recent experiences with people online. It is not just about online romance, but also about friendship. I wrote this article as a warning so that people would be more careful to steer away from shallow people and instead look for real people who know that a person is incomplete without flaws.While the possibily of finding one’s life partner or an everlasting friend is very much likely, the number of people who take relationships casually is also on the rise on the internet. Therefore, it is always better to be careful.

    Let me quote an example here. I usually hang out with a philosophical bunch of people in the online metaverse of Second Life. We all knew what we did in our real lives usually. I have always found it amusing that when one person goes missing from the weekly discussions for a prolonged period of time, nobody else writes to them to know if they are okay, or calls them. They even presume the person as deceased even though they do not know that for certain.

    Another example : An online friend of mine thought he found true love in the metaverse. And then suddenly one day, she just dissapears. Her phone numbers were all fake and her addresses were bouncing. Now, he is delirious and worried about her and even plans to go halfway around the world to find her. For all we know, she could be a he since this friend of mine is considerably rich and hence very vulnerable.

    So, these were a few reflections of mine and what prompted me to write about such online relationships. Mind you, there are meaningful relationships forged online, but they are very rare.

  • I agree with your comments about the real world vs. the Internet world.
    I have met several people who unfortunately have more online knowledge than real world knowledge and it shows in the way they conduct their real life friendships.
    They aren’t there when you need them, they have very few social skills despite being able to send the wittiest emails that make them seem so charming on the screen.
    They are lonely and they don’t make any effort to sustain real world friendships – maybe in the view that they figure they’ll find us online again some other time.

    I like to continue my existing friendships, and relationship with partner online, but new friendships can be quite fickle and unreliable.

    Good post.

  • Catey

    I think that ppl who have a hard time forming and sustaining relationships in the real world will gravitate towards online relationships,and sometimes to the point of addiction.

    I think that the reasons vary, from personality disorders, to being in an unhappy marriage and not able to divorce, to even religious expectations.

    Once an online persona is developed and sharpened, I also believe that it becomes an exercise in narcissism, an infactuation and addiction to the relection of themselves that they have created.

  • The past two comments; I am sure would help people who are already addicted to such dynamisms in their relationships online to recognize their addiction.

    Recognizing that you are addicted is very very difficult.

    Once people can recognize the difference between online and real relationships, they would then be able to bridge the difference between the two, thus enriching both sides.