June 18, 2018, 7:26 pm
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Oneline dating creates a new normal: Digitally transforming friendship, love

WHEN I popped the question to couples aged 18 to 70, the answer from 21 percent of the 210 subjects in this online survey, was “traditionally.” The other 52 percent, not surprisingly, indicated “digitally.” While the remaining 30 percent “virtually.” 

“Traditionally” here refered to an actual face-to-face situation where a relationship may happen including being classmates, officemates, meeting at a party, a blind date, introduced by a friend or met at a party. “Digitally” was as it meant—connecting and developing a romance via social media, dating websites, meet-ups including public chat groups where profile viewing is acceptable—thus involving oneself with virtual people for the purpose of creating a real world relationship. “Others” included those who keep a virtual relationship only, meaning two real people connecting virtually. 

Though the age range is wide, over 75 percent of the respondents are within the 18 to 35 years old range. Only 25 people over 35 years old responded, and of that number only 10 are over 50.

There are parallelisms though to what the non-millenials believe as traditional forms of dating and romance. In the days before the Internet, there were the equivalents of virtual friends—phone pals, pen pals, buddies over the Citizen’s Band (CB) radio—many of these people would meet eventually in eyeballs (now known as EBs) and friendships and relationships were formed. The ways by which means of dating that traditional until now. 

Before online dating, creating connections that would lead up to relationships was pretty much resigned to school or work, through friends or out on a Saturday night. 

How did your parents meet? Mine met the normal way. They were working for a then young pharmaceutical company, my mother was a pharmacist, and my dad a “bodegero.” He pursued her with among other things, soft siopao from Ma Mon Luk and lavenders (an expensive rarity in the fifties) from Dangwa.

Asked if this kind of dating is obsolete, the respondents replied it was not and most of the younger ones surveyed indicated that it was their “preferred” way of meeting and getting to know other people. 

Several respondents however said that actually meeting a person has become very stressful because there are other things to do like study or in the case of the many call center respondents, work. Thus a virtual partner, someone they can chat to while walking, in between the study session or just a pop-up window on the mobile phone while working has become the norm. Psychologists may classify this form of behavior as a mild sociopathy. But those who said that meeting and maintaining a relationship online was more “convenient.”

This practice has made even normal relationships uploaded and streamed.

Choice or confusion. What the respondents in the “digitally” category consistently mentioned is that meeting people online has given more choices but at the same time more confusion. Allayna, a student from the Jose Rizal University said she met her boyfriend online and they “committed” in the same space, but she lost all love when they finally met. Peter, a call center agent from Taguig used a dating app to meet the girl he is with now, who has a 3-year old daughter. They immediately bunked in a week after they met. 

Vilma widowed at 23 because of a motorcycle accident that killed her husband, met online, an ex-boyfriend. 

“I was fifteen and he was eighteen,” she narrates. “We got to know each other again and fell in love while chatting on Skype.” Rodel, her ex- and now boyfriend is working in Guam at a shipyard. And when he came back, he swept her off her feet and they got married. Vilma will eventually join Rodel in Guam but in the meantime they chat daily and have remained faithful to each other.

Cayzee met her lover over the the dating app OKCupid. And they are lovers. They have not met each other personally so they are completely virtual, right down to “voice only” online sex which she claims is “safe and satisfying.” When asked if she will have real sex with this virtual partner, her response is “I don’t even intend to meet up.” Her virtual partner is a student who lives in Norway.

Ghosting. Is a phenomena that is not limited to, but is very prevalent in this Internet age simply because anonymity can be so easy. Ghosting is when a person engages another person in a virtual relationship, hooks up for a while (usually for purposes of convenience) and simply disconnects—by blocking the person, creating a new profile or discarding an old one—to cut the relationship.

People who engage in online relationships that remain virtual are said to be scared of commitments. These “commitmentphobes” are the purveyors of ghosting. Though it happens even in real relationships, where couples separate either because of indifferences or people who come in between, over the Internet, it is as easy as flipping a switch. 

Kristelle, a 22-year old communication student says that virtual romance is “just like gaming. You win if you are fast and aggressive.”

Relationship as gaming. Love digitalized seems to be a game for some. Although dating apps were designed to match and connect people with common pursuits with a monetization objective, some people choose to use the platform where they can play, and keep playing until they win. The reason? Repondents cited the reason being similar to game  mechanics. If you like someone and they don’t like you, well then on to the next one.

This kind of attitude however trivializes relationships and the resulting romance that may blossom. Thus personal links are given expiry dates and persons become expendable. The time- and effort-saving efficiency of online dating has become more important than actually finding a long term partner and opened doors wide open to promiscuity.

Promiscuity and polygamy. There is another aspect to Internet dating that is not immediately apparent. Shawie, a professional says that having sex with several partners of a course of a week is possible. Ton, 35, married with 3 children is a car dealer from Novaliches and regularly “claims” his dates from the website Ashley Madison.com whose tagline is “Life is short, have an affair.” For more localized sites, Arnel an engineer based in Saudi Arabia goes to “Pinaywalks.com” for “all-the-way” dates during his annual visits to Cebu. These three cases are clearly exploitative engagements and is prostitution disguised as love.

Love and the selfie. Some social scientists claim that these kinds of attitudes in online relationships may have to do with the “narcissistic tendencies” and are lumped along with the selfie. The selfie anchors to it a larger narcissism which is boht expressive and absorptive. Millenials argue  that the self-portraits are an extension of their self, and how they relate or communicate in a relationship, except this time these are shared more publicly.

Tinder, OKCupid allows its users to search for single people from almost anywhere in the world with the same objective. Online dating apps and meet ups allow for some sanitization of relationships as there is no fear of failure because for every one or two rejections you get one or two matches. 

Finding true love. For the more senior respondents, online they found that their love life and choices was much more optimistic compared to the real world.  

Teo widowed at 68 was lonely and also through Facebook was able to connect to an ex-girlfriend, Nora. They began to chat regularly, lifiting his spirits and getting him out of bedlam as they started reminiscing about good times and became very close. Last month Nora was saddened to find out that Teo passed away after a short bout with his illness—the reason why their regular chats suddenly stopped.  But Nora, alone after she was widowed found solace with Teo’s sons who began to develop a motherly relationship with her.

Rico had a crush on Rita since high school, but circumstances kept them apart. They reconnected on Facebook, he was a widower and she a divorcee. Rita was based in Australia, a country Rico visits frequently because of work. He pursues her once more and after a year of courtship they tie the knot. Seven years on they are still together.

From the information of this mini survey, it seems that Internet dating and finding partners online puts relationships on a different plane, and in some cases dehumanizes and even commercializes love.

The game and As Carole Lieberman’s book  says in her book Bad Boys. Dating has changed from a “romantic serendipitous meeting to a virtual shopping spree”.

With all this being said what are the consequences for us later in our relationship?
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