It seems to be happening more and more. Girl meets boy on the internet, they chat, exchange emails, chat some more, exchange more emails, get hyped up, talk about meeting one day, never actually do so, go on chatting, continue emailing, start talking about ‘love’, even ‘marriage’…and yet it’s not a real relationship.

It’s all fantasy

And if all that happens is that someone spends a few months playing around with your feelings and you end up emotionally bereft and wrung out, count yourself lucky. A least you haven’t been cleaned out, like some women. But we’ll return to that.

And yet…and yet. It all seems so real, so convincing. It’s truly extraordinary how many people believe themselves ‘in love with’ and even ‘engaged to’ someone they met months (or even years) ago on the internet but have never actually met.

Sometimes they never get as far as talking to their ‘beloved’ on the phone either. The entire ‘relationship’ is based on an illusion built around nothing more than electronic communication.

She Never Met the Guy But Was Planning Her Wedding…

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a variety of this story I’d be a millionaire.

A lovely, kind, genuine woman dreaming of love and marriage ‘meets’ a guy on the internet. They talk online and later speak on the phone. She starts to think of him as her ‘boyfriend’ – yet they haven’t met.

Why?

Who knows – distance is the most common reason, but presumably there’s always some excuse why it’s not possible. This goes on for months; maybe they even get as far as talking about love and marriage – yet she hasn’t met the guy. To cut a long story short, when he runs out of excuses he ends the ‘relationship’ – telling her so if he has a shred of decency, or simply ghosting her otherwise.

Result: she’s devasted.

It Happens Over and Over

Yet it doesn’t mean she’s stupid; that she deserved all this. Many people search for friendship and love through the internet, and many people find someone who’s right for them and live happily ever after.

But those people went on to meet their partners

It’s also true that many people have never been so lonely as they are today, people of all ages too. And such people are highly suggestible to the possibly of love, connection and future happiness, wherever it comes from.

A curious facet of the internet is that its very facelessness can make people more willing to share, to talk intimately about themselves and to create a feeling of togetherness. This makes it feel as if you really the know this person you’ve never met, but you simply don’t. You don’t even know if everything – or anything – they tell you is the truth.

Reality v. Fantasy

Meeting online distorts the actuality of what should be an interaction been two flesh-and-blood people.

Because what they tell you is all you have, you assemble your portrait of this person into whatever you want them to be, which might be very far from the person they really are. And the longer it goes on, the more idealized your portrait tends to become.

Many people who have finally met their internet romance find that reality just doesn’t match up to their dreams. The online vision was faultless, but the reality turns out to be no chemistry and too many irritating habits that drive you up the wall.

And so you have wasted months or even years of your life and your emotional energy on a phantom.

How Long is Too Long?

If you’ve been getting to know someone for 3 weeks but there’s still no plan to meet up you have to start asking why. You might think 3 weeks doesn’t sound very long, but it’s long enough to two people who are genuinely looking for a relationship to organize something.

Ah, you say, but we’re long distance.

Why, is my rejoinder, have you been building your romantic hopes on someone who you know is physically out of your reach? There are reasons why people have long distance relationships, but successful LDRs have two essential things; the two people forged their relationship in person but have been separated by circumstances and they have a plan to be together again in the future.

Yet It Goes On Happening

You don’t have to look far on the internet to find someone insisting that they are in a real relationship with someone they’ve never met, never spoken to on the phone, who doesn’t even live in the same country or speak the same language, who doesn’t want to acknowledge the relationship publicly, whose friends warn her of the possibility that she’s being catfished, yet who is adamant that one day they’ll meet and live happily ever after.

Ah yes, catfishing.

This is where the whole thing starts to become sinister. Catfishing, in case you haven’t heard the term, is when someone sets up a fictional online identity, sometimes as a form escapism from a dreary but inexorable reality, sometimes just because they’re the kind of people who like to play with other people’s emotions, and sometimes because they are scammers.

How ‘a Real Relationship’ Can Become a Real Nightmare

It’s astonishing how many people have been asked for money by people they only met on the internet and yet still the alarm bells don’t ring.

Sometimes the scam is so egregious it is reported in the media, but most scams are relatively small scale. Dating sites are well aware of the risk and advise people to be careful when using them and to report anyone who asks them for money.

But effective scammers aren’t stupid enough to ask crudely for you to lob them a few thousand of the readies into this handy bank account, no questions asked. Instead they tell you how badly they want to meet you and could you send a plane ticket, or better still the money for one. Or that it would be so much easier to talk to you online if they had a better computer and could you help out.

Of course it’s all dressed up in a lot of romantic hyperbole because they have spent time – and often considerable expertise – grooming you to believe in their sincerity.

It’s also amazing how often you come across people ‘in a relationship’ with someone they have never met who talk about having ‘fights’ and how they’ve even ‘broken up’ a few times and ‘got back together’. This is your own private soap opera, a daily drama that only exists in the cloud. It’s a terrible sign that you are losing sight of reality when you put up with that kind of crap online.

This Kind of Thing Has Happened Before

It’s not even as if this kind of thing is new. Look at Mr Darcy, the object of millions of women’s fantasies for more than 200 years. Women have always fantasized over men they’ve never met but who seem to epitomize all the masculine virtues they seek – just as your mother might have fantasized over Brad Pitt or your grandmother over Robert Redford.

The difference is that the internet means you can communicate with someone you’ve never met, and this makes it seem more real: real enough to convince a lot of people that they are in a real relationship. But you’re not.

A Real Relationship Must Come Out of the Cloud

You need to see them in front of you, hear their voice, look into their eyes, see them laugh, touch them, feel them, experience their reality.

You need to know their imperfections, their irritating habits and accept them. You need to hear them say things you don’t like and be able to live with it. You need to find out how imperfect they really are and still love them.

There’s no doubt you can form a connection with someone via the internet but you must keep a clear head and not deceive yourself about its limitations. It’s not that it can’t ever end happily, only that it has to end in reality. And that means meeting each other. Soon.

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