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Cyber Crushes - the one dimensional relationship
It's happening every day in every city in every country across the globe. Millions of people go online and log into their profiles on dating, social networking, and business networking sites and connect with friends of friends, like-minded professionals, acquaintances from an earlier stage of life, people who profess to share a similar interest or passion- or with others looking for companionship, sex and/or a long term relationship. The internet has become a replacement for the social support systems that used to provide introductions and help us grow and nurture those encounters into meaningful relationships.
The upside to using technology is fairly obvious. To begin with, it allows you to connect with many more people than you would encounter through your usual circles at work and in your community. It is also convenient, easy to access, saves time and money (as compared with going to an event/party/group), and helps to even the playing field by giving everyone the chance to present themselves in their best light.
The downsides are also evident. The only information you have about someone is what he or she chooses to share. In fact, the information they present could be completely false and/or misleading. In the absence of a face to face encounter, it is easy to see what you want to see and believe what you want to believe. It seems that everyone knows someone who has had the experience of "falling in love"with someone they met online who then turns out to be someone completely different from that cyber person of their dreams. There is also the downside of managed information in these relationships. Cyber relating is one-dimensional. You share information primarily through email, texting and possibly on the phone. There is no way for you to "check out" what the other person is saying by reading their body language, observing how they relate with others in their environment, meeting their friends and co-workers, etc. In other words, there is no context- just carefully chosen words and "talking points" that deprive you of the experience that results from the open and uncensored flow if information that comes from being in the physical presence of another person.
If you use the internet as your primary tool for making new friendships, connecting with friends and like minded professionals, and/or for finding potential romantic partners- it's important to keep the downsides in mind and your feet (head) firmly planted in reality. The following tips should help you to maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks of online relating.
* Accept all information you receive from an online source at face value.
In other words, stay cognizant of the fact that you have an incomplete and perhaps untruthful sketch of the person. If you find yourself idealizing them and/or projecting unsubstantiated qualities or attributes on to them, interrupt your thought process and remind yourself that this person is still a virtual stranger to you.
* Read between the lines of the information you do have.
Take note of the person's messages to others on social networking sites, look at all the pictures they post, read up on who their friends are and any groups or causes they are involved with. Notice the consistency with which they post messages, communicate with friends- and look for any themes, inconsistencies and/or negative comments they make or that are made about them.
* Pose thoughtful questions and pay close attention to how quickly and candidly the answers come.
If they hesitate, ignore a question(s), or answer in a vague way, try one more time. If they still are less than forthcoming or get defensive, this should be a red flag. Of course, I am presuming here that your questions will be well within the bounds of respectful and appropriate.
* If there is a strong mutual interest and connection, suggest a first meeting
Once you have connected with someone, don't let too much time go by before you suggest going offline together. This is one way to gauge how sincere the person is regarding the interest they have expressed in you. It will also help you to move the relationship along if the in-person connection feels as good as the cyber one. This is also the only way to begin to really get to know all the dimensions of another person and see how well they fit with you.
The internet is a great tool for connecting with like minded others who would ordinarily not come into your "real time," offline life. If you use this tool wisely you can broaden your social contacts and friendships, enrich you work/professional life, and explore new resources for personal growth and fulfillment.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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