Given the prevalence of social networking sites and MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) communities, it is not surprising that there are people falling in love. Dating sites have been around for as long as the @ symbol has made sense to anybody, enabling people to enjoy the benefits of a relationship without the added pressure that sex and constant companionship brings.
I recently read a story about a man who is getting married to a character in a video game. This character is not real, she is not even being controlled by another person over the internet, she is simply an AI.
While this is an extreme case of love-over-cables, it makes a good point to illustrate how our world and social constructs are shifting. While this story is certainly unusual, our conceptions of our world HAVE changed somewhat and as a result the story is merely strange, not outlandish as it would have been a generation ago! *In 2007, 7.8 million Britons used an online dating platform looking for companionship. And in 2008, 52% of British men and 48% of women used the internet to find a date.
Through communicating on Facebook and the like, we as a desperately social species have learned how to keep up relationships with people over vast distances without actually having to see each other IRL (In Real Life). Face to face contact is no longer necessary to keep relationships going, although the quality of these relationships and their evolutionary impact could be debated. But I am not in a particularly debating mood at the moment. I am merely illustrating how we have become accustomed to associating these communications we have with a REAL person who has REAL feelings on the other end of the cable. It is not just a machine we are talking to.
In recent times, it has evident that people are shifting their opinions on the role and credibility of online dating. *A recent survey indicates that “nearly two thirds of singles (57%) say it’s socially acceptable” to find a partner online. This is further supported by the search trends for online dating terms.
I have certainly made a great deal of friends online, some of who I have never met IRL, nor do I ever expect to. Our interactions are real, meaningful and enrich my life. Some of these friends I have become quite attached to. It is hardly a leap of faith for me to imagine these relationships growing and leading to certain emotions that are normally reserved for people in you nearby geographical area.
I have read that 4 out of 10 couples who got married in the USA in 2008 met online. Imagine meeting someone on a social network and eventually falling in love with this person, but they unfortunately live in another country. You could be totally new-age and keep it an exclusive online romance, but I am a bit old fashioned in the way that I still prefer some degree of physical to go with the intellectual…
How would we go about meeting IRL when international travel has become such a difficult hurdle to overcome, not to mention costly? I know of countless people who are forced to keep their relationships going virtually because they are hampered in getting to see their loved ones. While the social geographic barriers are falling away, the physical barriers are still firmly in place. I do feel that international travel should accommodate our own shifting perceptions of what boundaries are becoming.
So come on all the Obama’s, Brown’s and Kim Jong Il’s of the world; play nice with each other’s toys and lead us into an open free world and economy. We are socially becoming one global people… let’s treat each other the same.
P.S I have friends IRL too…
*This data is from a survey conducted by Parship in October 2007.Tweet