Online Relationships and the Realm of Romantic Possibilities

Online Relationships and the Realm of Romantic Possibilities

Aaron Ben-Ze’ev
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-368-5.ch029
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Human life concerns not only—or even mainly—the present, but rather, and to a significant extent, the realm of imagined possibilities that include cyberspace. The fundamental human capacity to imagine the possible not only reveals reality, but often disregards it as well. Although the realm of potential romantic possibilities is promising, it is also risky. To guide our path through this unknown territory, humans have created boundaries that eliminate the options that seem immoral or dangerous. Internetbased social interaction technologies have considerably increased the boundaries of the realm of the romantically possible and its accessibility. Hence, the challenge of coping with this realm has become central to modern life and has far reaching implications for human relationships. This chapter theorizes the role of technology in creating potential possibilities for romantic relationships and focuses on the imagination, interactivity, reciprocity, and anonymity of cyberspace.
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The great advantage of modern technology is its ability to present many tempting possible romantic options. We have become slaves to such romantic options—the Internet, business trips, and cell phones all facilitate various romantic and sexual possibilities. The chains of potential possibilities prevent us from enjoying or even being comfortable with the present. We tend to get used to the chains of the present, as we really have no other choice. It is much harder to cope with the chains of the possible, since this realm, bounded only by our imagination, is extremely exciting and can prevent us from being happy with our present lot. The present may make us somewhat sad, but the realm of the possible makes us restless and continually disappointed.

Coping with the mixed blessing of the possible requires us to establish a normative order of priority in the form of ideals and boundaries. As we establish a set of normative priorities, we often find ourselves giving up an ideal or violating a certain boundary. Romantic love in modern society is rife with the difficulties associated with fulfilling ideals and maintaining boundaries. To decrease the violation of boundaries, we may want to make our normative boundaries more flexible; in turn, this may weaken the safeguards against further violation. Take, for example, cyberspace where the romantic and sexual boundaries are much more flexible than in offline circumstances. This flexibility did not reduce the number of offline violations of boundaries but rather increased it. Romantic and sexual cheating increased with the expanded use of the Internet (Orr, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Matchmaking Websites: Websites that attempt to romantically match two people for an offline or online relationship.

Online Dating: Dating which is mainly conducted online.

Cybering: Cybersex is sometimes colloquially called “cybering.”

Virtual Relationships: Relationships conducted in cyberspace.

Cyberlove: A romantic relationship consisting mainly of computer-mediated communication.

Cybersex: A social interaction between at least two people who are exchanging real-time digital messages to become sexually aroused.

Romantic Boundaries: Prevailing norms which limit romantic behavior.

Cyberaffair: A romantic affair consisting mainly of computer-mediated communication.

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