Online Relationships – Real Or Virtual?

Posted on October 13, 2010 in Society

By Atiya Hasan:

I wish the Internet would stop being portrayed as the villain. I wish those people who marry random people they meet online and then end up regretting their decisions rather publicly, would just go and stuff themselves. I wish those cheapish people who do drastic things online and end up making news would stop. Because I’m tired of listening to parents trashing  net friendships, believing everybody to be a fraud, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. And of course they could be exactly that, but then you have the same, if not more chances, of meeting frauds in your daily life too. I’m tired of reading articles about the apparent disdain that authors feel about online relationships, deeming them to be unfit of even being called relationships, since they’re virtual.

And I’m sick of being advised that  its better to go cycling or for a game of badminton, and meeting evidently “real” people  rather than spending hours online. Now I’m not saying it isn’t. But cycling or an outdoorsy game every single day can get just as boring as spending hours online. There should be some amount of balance between the two, the Real and the Virtual, because admit it , the internet is becoming a  quintessential part of our lives. You need it for everything and you can do much with it. From discovering a cure for Cancer, to meeting those rare amusing people. You should just know where to look. Name one assignment which you can complete without  the internet. Change my name to Champa (pun) if you don’t have at least one good online friend and/or have not flirted with people or been flirted with online.

The Internet is increasingly becoming a place where you can meet and make friends, good friends. Just like your local park or school or college. In fact you can meet people online who you could not have possibly bumped into at  the local park or in school or college. People from different countries, continents. People who have grown up in very different cultures, who are very different from you and yet so much alike.

And through online blogs, groups, forums, social networking sites , these online friends become increasingly real. You can read their thoughts, see their pictures, know their likes, dislikes and quirky tastes. Of course they could be lying about all of it, but who cares? As long as you’re not looking for romantic relationships, who cares if people are lying about their age, sex, location, interests, abs etc. It doesn’t matter. As long as they can keep you amused for some time.

Of course for real virtual friendships, it is essential to be truthful. And generally people are. Its just hard to keep up a lie. Its hard to keep up the pretence that you live in Santiago when you’d like to discuss how awesome the chandni chowk gol guppas were which you had yesterday. So not everybody online is a liar. What would be the point anyways, if like I said, all you were looking for is an harmless friendship. And with some experience you learn to gauge a person’s personality by his or her opening lines. The Internet provides you with much experience, leaves you wiser, broadens your horizons.

So kindly stop trashing online relationships. Believe me they’re as real as they get. You should just have them with the right sort of people. Like anybody who begins a conversation with a ‘Hey sexy’ or ‘Hello beautiful, asl please.’ And ends them with ‘lets meet up’ should immediately and effectively be ignored. Its usually safe to add people of the same sex, females in my case, except the rare lesbians. And I generally prefer to approach male persons rather than having them approach me, so more often that not I end up with sane individuals.

I have a couple of good online friends, who remain online friends largely due to the distance betweens us most of the time. Yes, the sort of relationships I share with them are different from the kind I have with the people that I bumped into at the park or in school or college, but then that’s what makes it fun. Yes, they cannot physically help me when I’m in need like some of my other friends can, but then there’s something called emotional support, and as fellow human beings I know you know how important that can get. And of course all that general advice, ridiculously funny anecdotes, interesting links, videos, pictures, movies, music etc.

All I can say is that my online relationships, the select few that I have, are as real as my real-life relationships. The sooner our respected elders understand that , the closer we’ll get to bridging that generation gap.

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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