For my research paper requirement in intro. psychology, I was required to write a paper which discussed any topic we covered in class or in the textbook. Naturally, I chose something related to the Internet -- and naturally, I chose something related to relationships, since Anna and Christmas are heavily on my mind.
What did I write about? Online relationships. You've read them before: studies and surveys into Internet addiction as well as the success of online love. Oh, the Internet is loathsome this way and that, but at least it's good for checking stocks and reading newspapers. Everything else is evil...evil...evil!
Quite frankly, I don't believe Internet addiction is anything really worth spending time discussing. It's no different from anything else you get addicted to, and the rampant journalist warnings of the dangerous, addicting Internet seem like scare reports invoked to get readership and loyalty. "We're here to protect you." Riiight. More like "we're here to misinform you."
As we all know, the Internet is a godsend, and how much you get out of it is directly proportional to how much you put into it. Gee, so revolutionary. One says the same about relationships...
The case against online relationships insists that online couples do not become as intimate with each other, and the distance drives those couples apart very early on. Don't waste your time with them, they're a waste of the time. It's the easy thing to say.
I think after being in an online relationship with Anna for two years, I have a little clout in this discussion. Basically, I think the naysayers are full of shit because they're used to their little conventional concepts about relationships. Granted, it's tough when your significant other is somewhere across the country, or even worse, across the ocean, but still, the intimacy argument is ridiculous.
Online couples don't get to fuck as often as offline couples. That's true. Is that why the relationship is less intimate? Do you know that couples who meet online fall in love with each other because of the content of their character and not because of physical appearance, so much? You're meeting someone's personality, and online, the personality is your face. Your humility (or lack thereof) shows an easy-going or rigid, sharpened face. Your impulsiveness is shown through the energy and enthusiasm of your persona. How you carry yourself, how you type, what vocabulary you use, how funny or interesting you are...those are what's important online. You're not looking at someone and saying, "Ooh, gimme some a'dat strange."
And enduring online relationships obviously are not based so much on physical pleasure as they are on spiritual and mental bonding between partners. If you're not all that interested in someone for who they really are, I guarantee you you'll get bored of talking to them every day for months upon months. You really have to enjoy someone's company to stay with them online. How could you possibly say offline relationships are more intimate?
Because the greedmongers are busy trying to get that huge, untapped market to get onto the 'Net, I'm afraid everyone has overlooked the effect that online culture has had on society. You have people who basically live their lives online, and all their friends are online, not offline. People are busy building online communities whether they intend to or not, and histories and pasts are developing between close groups of people. Different dialects and vocabularies are being developed by different types of online users, such that perhaps in the future, a Usenet reader will not understand what the MP3 collector is saying to him, because of all the slang he chooses to use. Communities are forming their own rituals and their own rules and morals, as well. Anyone who has tapped into the overly-used "hacker ethic" knows that. Each and every person has their own style to the way they type. Some people use punctuation religiously, some don't even care. Some use online speak like "how r u 2day?" and some speak perfect, proper English. It's the things like these that you become in tune with, and it'll be the object of much study for linguists in the future.
And as for couples? They're flourishing. And I think it's great. I'm not saying all online relationships work out, but at least they're founded upon values that are actually important, instead of couples who both have 'really fine-ass asses'. Couples can talk through e-mail...oh yeah...I read an article in my university's Daily Texan about a couple who kept contact with each other entirely through e-mail. First of all, this whole article is like two years out-of-date in its topic...we're all very TIRED of hearing about how great e-mail is for poor couples. Aww, I'm so fucking touched. Second, even online couples have trouble just through e-mail. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes...couples can speak through IRC (can you believe some of the really knowledgeable Internet people don't even know what IRC is these days?), ICQ, MUDs, proprietary networks, web pages, and so on. It's great. And it's extremely cheap.
"You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Excuse me while I puke. I figure we have a decade at least of companies and entertainment crews still milking the Internet. I really want to see this one...I want to see that adorable depiction of life online, following in the grandiose tradition of "Hackers", "The Net", and "Mission Impossible".
Anyway, before I conclude this section of this Soapbox, I'd just like to say this: for those who don't use the Internet, don't go thinking you know what it's like to be a Netizen, what it's like to be online. You sit there mocking all those nerds and geeks who spend their whole lives lounging in front of a computer screen, but who are you to say? Your opinions are based on ignorance and you don't know what you're missing out. Most of the couples I know are online couples, and they're doing wonderfully. Most of them are getting married soon, in real life. How about that? Before, you were stuck with whoever you could find nearby where you lived...whoever you managed to run across. Now you're exposed to a whole world where distance matters very little and you're more likely to find that one person for you.
I might very well still be single right now were it not for Anna, who lives thousands of miles away from me. We're working on two years together and we've been together in about five major cities in the western world now. Can you say the same?
I realize what I'm saying here is not really groundbreaking, and I apologize for not giving you fresh stuff that you've never heard of before. One of the things that makes online folks like Jon Katz, Lance Arthur, and Peter Merholz so good is that they're able to cover fresh topics, with actual original examples. In short, they're entertaining to read partly because you learn from them, no matter how much you know about the 'Net. *sigh* To be a real writer... Then again, what I do is more discussion, not informatory...
I've made plenty more arguments pointing out the flaws of negative claims about online relationships in my paper, although I'm afraid to say I only went through the paper once, and I accept very painfully that there are huge holes in my train of thought and my logic paths. I also know that a lot of the points are redundant and the paper is not very economic. So be lenient. I wrote it in a day...heh.
This is the way of the future, you know, so you'll have to get used to it. This is, actually, more accurately, just a small glimpse of what you'll eventually see. Your eyes will be kept open and you will not be able to avoid this for much longer. Online relationships work just as well, if not better, than offline relationships.
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