This may sound like a silly question.
Virtual love is virtual by definition, and therefore cannot be real. However, the term is probably a misnomer. Virtual love does not refer to ‘unreal love’ but rather love that develops in a virtual world.
Therefore, the question becomes – can one find love in a virtual world? And if so, are those feelings real or fantasy?
Virtual worlds are fantasy worlds. Some of them are more fantastical than others. Online gaming worlds such as World of Warcraft or Everquest let you become elves, dwarves, or even orcs and let you battle fiercesome creatures including dragons, griffons, and cute little bunnies with wickedly sharp teeth.
Not all virtual worlds are quite that fantastical, some are like HubPages, and they are centered around an activity (e.g. writing) or around a topic (e.g. investing).
What is common with all these online virtual worlds, however, is that they are filled with real people, interacting with each other and forming friendships and possiblyfinding virtual love.
Is Virtual Love Real? – Online Dating
Let us first consider online dating sites.
Online dating is becoming more and more acceptable today as people become more comfortable with using computers as a means of communication. Electronic mail, instant messaging, and applications such as Facebook have increased the comfort level of talking with family, relatives, and friends online.
As such applications have become more pervasive, the concept of exchanging textual messages with the people we know has become less foreign and more accepted.
The next step then is to use this convenient form of communication to meet new people for the purpose of dating. This is what online dating sites allow you do.
The big advantage of dating online is that it gives you a large population of people to choose from and gives you the ability to ‘test out’ a large number of suitors, Unlike real-world face to face communication, which can be more stressful and demanding, online communication is low-key and gives you time to properly consider and form each of your responses. This will allow you to better impress your date.
Once you have found a likely dating match, you can take the virtual relationship to the next level, which is to set up a face to face meeting.
Clearly love can flourish in an online dating environment. Many people have gone on to have successful relationships and marriages to people that they meet on online dating sites.
The weakness of these online dating sites of course also comes from its key strength. It makes available to you a larger number of people to choose from, but it also does the same for someone who may be emotionally unbalanced. While such individuals also exist in the real world, their sphere of influence is not as large because they only have the people around them to interact with. However in an online dating venue, such individuals can get access to many more people.
Is Virtual Love Real? – Online Communities
However, relationships in more general online communities are a bit different. Strangers meet online, and form bonds, with the expectation that they will never meet in real-life.
In many ways, this last caveat – never meeting in real-life – gives us a lot of freedom. We need not worry about how attractive we are, our age, race, riches,how we dress, or many of the other things that we commonly worry about in real world relationships. We can be whomever we want to be, and explore aspects of ourselves that we may be too shy to reveal in a real world setting.
Some may argue that virtual relationships are more real for this reason.
In virtual worlds we are communicating on a mind-to-mind level without the limitations placed upon us by our physical appearance.
Not surprisingly, this anonymity can also become a weakness. Some people use this feature to present themselves in a way that will engender pity or sympathy from others and then utilize those feelings to obtain monetary or sometimes merely emotional gain.
Many people who have experienced these bad relationships become disillusioned, and prefer to stay away from forming any ties in virtual venues. There is also a very negative social stigma that is attached to those who have been deceived in this way, because they are seen as naive and foolish.
Confidence tricksters exist in the real world as well, but again, their reach is more limited, and it takes greater effort to deceive someone in the physical world where your appearance can be used to judge you.
Is Virtual Love Real?
I believe that most virtual relationships are real – they exist between two real people communicating across a virtual medium. The words come from them, the feelings come from them, the humor, advice, empathy, and sharing all come from real people.
Not all virtual love will last, just like not all love in the physical world lasts.
In fact, it takes a lot more skill and imagination to foster a lasting relationship in a virtual world because there are few visual cues, and no ability to touch and feel each other.
However, you are more free in a virtual world because you are protected to some degree by the shield of annonimity. In addition, because there are so many people that you can reach, you are more likely to find someone who shares more of your interests than the people you meet in the real world.
Is virtual love real? Yes – in many instances it is.
If you give it the chance, virtual love may even be deeper than real love.