Internet Relationships: Do They Ever Last?
By Mel Bancroft
Back in the nineties, when dating websites were in their infancy, internet relationships were generally frowned upon. The stigma it carried seemed to label people who dated over the internet as incapable of getting a date, relying on the internet to do it for them. It was greatly associated with weirdoes and potential stalkers or perverts roaming the web to prey on unsuspecting internet users.
If a woman was asked how she met her new man, she might hear a sigh, or a gasp, followed by a disapproving look when she replied “On the internet.” Has that changed at all today? While people may have become more comfortable with internet dating using popular sites such as Eharmony.com and Match.com, there’s still skepticism about its efficacy. Do internet relationships last, and who’s really benefiting from internet dating?
“People who’re not serious, playing games” said Tonya, an attorney and writer. “In my experience, they’re the ones who are taking over internet dating.” After trying it out for the first time in the late nineties, she found an internet relationship difficult to come by. She ended up with two undesirable experiences.
Her first internet relationship involved a man who, after months of dating her, was involved with other women who were calling her at work. Although reluctant, she agreed to meet another guy who said he didn’t have a recent photo to send her. “When I met him, the only part of his description of himself that was accurate was that he was tall. He left out his sloppy looking rolls of fat, his wrinkled up, slouchy clothes, and his man breasts. After that, I gave up internet relationships.”
The typical complaints most people have in common about developing internet relationships are: profiles are totally fabricated; people inaccurately characterize themselves; and some users lie about being married or in a relationship. These experiences are never advertised and can cause people to lose faith when all they see are “success stories” on television. There are people who have been dating for years via the internet wondering when they’re going to have a success story of their own.
Tara, an academic advisor, and her husband, Robert, an assistant professor, have a story that can definitely be called a “success.” They met in 1998 and were married a year later. Although they actually met through voicemail, they have insightful viewpoints about the process of electronic dating—whether it’s through voicemail or internet relationships.
Tara had her own rules for meeting someone for the first time. “Keep it casual, meet in a public place during daylight hours, and give a couple of friends detailed information about your date and where you plan to meet,” she explained. Tara and Robert’s first date started off casual when they met at the pier in Santa Monica, Calif. The date was extended to dinner, a movie, a stroll along the boardwalk, lots of conversation, and several kisses at the end of the night. A total of thirteen hours spent together. Now husband and wife, they have a child, Michael, who is four-years-old.
Robert pointed out that internet relationships have changed a great deal since he and Tara met. “When anything is mass produced it changes the way people communicate. A homeless person can create a profile on a dating site because it’s more accessible now. If I were someone in the dating market right now, I wouldn’t want to date online. I’d much rather see a woman’s face and her smile for the first time, in person.”
Lee Greene, a transportation manager, has had some fleeting and strange encounters in his internet dating experience, such as a woman who wanted to pay for him to visit her in another state because he looked like her ex-husband. But he managed to have an eight-month courtship with a woman he met through the internet. “We were developing a meaningful relationship, but we were in two different places. She was more established and I still needed to get myself together. But it was an ego booster to have an attractive woman help me realize the areas of my life that I needed to work on—a woman who was genuinely interested in me.” The positivity alone made the experience a “success story” for him.
So does the method in which we date have a bearing on the quality of our relationships? Aren’t we the ones who determine whether relationships last, on or off the internet? The internet is just a microcosm of society as a whole. Internet relationships are only as good as who we are outside of the internet. The desire to have a positive dating experience should be the motivating force.
Expecting specific outcomes seem to increase one’s chances of becoming highly disappointed and frustrated. The internet is simply a tool which makes dating more convenient. Unfortunately, some people use it to deceive other people. Anyone looking for true love through internet relationships should focus on being what they are looking for while proceeding with caution and keen observation.
Bancroft is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.