We live in a digital age. Relationships in this day and age often start and end on the Internet. Sometimes you may meet someone first in person, then get to know them over the internet. This is common. And in many cases we get to know each other, without ever even speaking or chatting with each other, what is often called 'spying' or 'lurking' on Facbook or Twitter, on people's profiles without interacting.
This is the age where voyeurism and exhibitionism are reigning king and queen. Virtual relationships are the rule, not the exception and we expect that people are "watching" us.
Online dating is one of the most popular ways of meeting people and dating these days. We get to weed out people we are incompatible with by really getting to know them online, and then add in the last senses of touch and smell if and when we decide to meet someone in person. This is actually an old way of developing connections. Pen pals, and dating long distance where phone conversations and letter sending were the only means of communication for soldiers in war, or migrating families, has been widely accepted for decades. It’s no wonder social networking has become our wave of today.
Social network sites are convenient and fun. People can reinvent themselves, come up with new identities, post favorable pictures of themselves and thereby rediscover or create facets of themselves they never felt comfortable expressing in person. As a therapist, I believe there are extremely beneficial aspects to social networking and online dating. For people suffering, for example, from low self esteem or lack of confidence; for meeting up with old friends, maintaining relationships with new friends, connecting with colleagues, advertising your business, you name it – there are many positive sides to social networking, and almost everyone has a Facebook page.
Online porn has made sex super accessible too. Some say that virtual sex watching (ie viewing porn) is the biggest past-time on the internet.
Well, with all this there also comes the downside of social-networking. Websites like Facebook can encourage obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and lead to social networking addiction. We also hear a lot more about online porn or internet porn addiction, and social networking, like gaming or anything pleasurable, can also become addictive. Social network sites breed addictions. They also perpetuate stalking anonymously, and the like, which when left unchecked can develop into a very bad habit. These virutal relationships can slowly rip us away from reality.
Checking people’s Facebook pages has become a pastime for many. This may be fine in small doses within a pro-social context and used for good, such as to send someone a message or engage in lively chatter. But too often seeing what others are up to on Facebook is a slap in the face, leaving people feelings jealous, envious, doubtful and depressed. It’s high school all over again. And, why would we open ourselves up to this?
So while meeting and interacting with people online can be fun, there may be painful repercussions. And this can be detrimental, when it comes to breaking up.