The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Body and Soul - - You & Yours -

She is 37 and hasn’t met a man since her re­la­tion­ship broke up four years ago be­cause her boyfriend re­jected her. She thought she was over him, but ad­mit­ted that all her sub­se­quent in­ter­ac­tions with men have been elec­tronic.

She has looked for love though web­sites, email­ing, in­stant mes­sag­ing and text mes­sag­ing. None of it has led to real-life suc­cess. Bethany re­alised she was ad­dicted to flirt­ing on­line and was hid­ing be­hind her key­board.

Many women who are lack­ing emo­tional in­ti­macy in their lives, or even in their ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships, fill that void with the in­ter­net’s world of safety and anonymity.

The vir­tual world al­lows them to be at arm’s length, with no re­spon­si­bil­ity. Bethany can be who she would be in the real world if her self-es­teem, con­fi­dence and the op­por­tu­nity were there. In a sense, this “dis­tance re­la­tion­ship” can act as a dress re­hearsal, with the aim of bring­ing that good feel­ing and con­fi­dence into re­al­ity.

You can of­ten be more hon­est when you’re in­ter­net dat­ing. Re­ject­ing some­one is eas­ier on­line and it has the ad­van­tage of sav­ing time. How­ever, text-based com­mu­ni­ca­tion has a greater po­ten­tial for mis­un­der­stand­ings to arise. It lacks the cues of body lan­guage and voice. And the per­son may have com­pen­sat­ing qual­i­ties that you’ll miss be­cause they’re be­hind a screen.

The in­ter­net dis­as­ters I have dealt with are where peo­ple have over­laid their fan­tasies onto the vir­tual date. Without in­ter­act­ing per­son­ally, they can project and cre­ate the love of their life. The per­son may not look the way they have “ad­ver­tised” them­selves, they may be play act­ing or, for that mat­ter, they may not be sin­gle. There is also no phys­i­cal chem­istry in a vir­tual re­la­tion­ship.

Some of the prob­lems are also due to the new dat­ing dy­nam­ics and male-fe­male roles. My sin­gle male clients claim women don’t flirt, and take life and them­selves too se­ri­ously. I’ve heard sto­ries of men ap­proach­ing women in a so­cial sit­u­a­tion and be­ing told to bug­ger off. And they do. They feel women have come to see them­selves as the princesses their par­ents, so­ci­ety and the me­dia have told them they are. Men’s con­fi­dence has dwin­dled. They’re re­sort­ing to “dat­ing coaches” and com­plain­ing about sex­ual per­for­mance anx­i­ety.

For Bethany, the in­ter­net has been a tool, but there’s no sub­sti­tute for her tak­ing her fear of re­jec­tion and ac­tu­ally meet­ing or be­ing in­tro­duced to some­one in the flesh and let­ting na­ture take its course. It’s more au­then­tic, it’s more re­veal­ing, and it’s more real.

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