Hey Barbara Jones,
Welcome to the
Internet relationships, eh?
Well, I've been with my partner nearly 3 years. We met online. At first I thought she was too young for me (I've got about 6 years on her) but enjoyed the developing friendship. Eventually it became apparent we were a match and the rest, as they say, is history. We moved in together within 3 months and have been incredibly happy ever since.
But I've had my share of internet insanity! I learned the hard way that people are quite often not who / what they say they are. When I meet people in "real life", I have the opportunity to watch body language, to hear the nuances of speech and to hear ideas and feelings in their unedited form. These things allow me to use my instincts about people.
When I meet people online, all I have are the words on the screen. While the tone and the sense of humour do show through, I find that I have no idea of the true depth of the person (hey, we can all research and copy paste), or the integrity of the person. I always remember that I am relying on that person's perception of who they are and how they are seen in the world. It's amazing how distorted our self-perceptions often are!
The thing for me, at least, is that it usually does not matter one iota who is on the other end of the keyboard! Here in the forum and other places online where I have met people, I can enjoy the exchanges, the wit, the mental connection with people. But I take it for what it is ... unverified. Since I do not have my "gut" instinct to rely on, I approach people online with an unerring sense of skepticism. It takes some time and some personal contact before I trust people I meet online. Not fair, perhaps, but there are some pretty weird units out there! I know from experience.
Like Calm mentioned, the internet seems to be spawning a whole new mating ritual. It's odd to get to know someone intimately on a mental level and be total strangers physically. Meeting someone physically first then getting to know them mentally is an entirely different thing with entirely different rules. I think people tend to get hurt when they try to apply the "tradition" mating game rules to internet romances.
I think the internet is wonderful. Like Camille Paglia says:
"The Internet makes it possible to live anywhere in the country now; you don't have to live in a city ... I'm hoping that in the long run, the Internet will actually be a way to recover our contact with nature, because it allows people to live away from urban centers."
I think it also adds another dimension to relationships and opens a world of possibilities as long as people are careful. There are some bastards out there.
That's my two cents worth!
I'd be most interested in hearing more about your study!