Can Internet Relationships Be Real?For thousands of years, our ancestors drew on cave walls; that was their way of sharing feelings and aspirations. Communication methods have evolved since, but some things never change. Love still is a most complex feeling, and humanity has found more and more sophisticated ways to express this feeling.

To make a case for the benefits of Internet relationships, allow me to tell a story. In 2005, I signed up on an Internet forum, wanting to connect with other Star Wars fans. I recall having lots of fun chats with anonymous avatars. As weeks and months passed, often burning the midnight oil, I began to develop a bond with one user. After five years of chatting and speaking on the phone, I finally met the person… in person at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009. One notices how there is so much more to a person of flesh and blood than there is online. We are good friends to this day. In fact, I met my fiancee through her and her partner, so she was likely the catalyst to me living in Sweden now.

MySpace, Facebook, and Google+ launched 2003, 2004, and 2011 respectively — just to name three from a myriad of offerings. These websites serve the ubiquitous urge to stay in touch with friends, relatives, and lovers. Online dating also saw a tremendous increase in user base over the last years. One has to wonder how dating can work virtually. On a website you don’t flirt; you click on photos and perhaps write an affectionate message. The selection process is no different than in a real-life situation, though. Beauty, character traits, and hobbies are the criteria that determine the eventuality of hooking up for real.

The first step to a successful Internet relationship is to stop labeling it as abnormal. To have friends on the World Wide Web does not mean to diverge from the norm. An argument against it is that weird people do exist in this virtual world. Meeting these creepy characters is potentially simpler online. However, let us not dwell on possible negative outcomes. Blame yourself if you get hurt online; one should be aware of risks online, just like in life.

The breaking point for online acquaintances is whether one chooses to meet in person. That’s when everything can go wrong, or even surpass expectations. What decides the outcome of an online relationship is what you choose to do with it. Either you simply want an uncomplicated relationship, to be able to talk about all kinds of things, personal and general, or you look to meet new people, intent on making new friends in real life, too.

We must reconsider the meaning of the word ‘stranger.’ A stranger is someone you might talk to on the street when asking what time it is. A stranger is the one waiting in line in front of and behind you at the local grocery store. A stranger is everyone mingling at the shopping malls. A stranger is also everyone you meet online, in point of fact. Yet the definition of a word can change. It is wrong to declare someone a stranger just because you meet them in a virtual chat room or a website? Are they still a stranger after you have engaged in a conversation?

Thoughts, dreams, and aspirations can unite people. Since the advent of MMOs you can complete quests together with online friends, and this adds a whole new layer of complexity to the idea of online friendships. This also gives the word ‘stranger’ a new meaning — internationality has become the catchphrase of the Internet. It really is a joy if you are able to speak in many languages. Then the whole world is in the palm of your hands, figuratively.

Computers, smartphones, and tablets ushered in an era of incessant connectivity. One can argue the good and bad sides of that coin. Anyone who does not embrace this new way of life risks being excluded. This push forward, both in business and personal matters, relies on our ability to stay in touch with relatives, friends, and colleagues. To cut a long story short, online relationships do not have to be motivated by sex or superficial conversations, but can also be an exercise in collaboration.

Last, it is language itself which signifies the authenticity of online chats. It is possible to discern the character of a person from the way they express themselves. A geek might choose different words than a pedophile. One or the other will be more eloquent, and that indicates whether your chat partner is a geek or an academic or some horny guy who was never a great conversationalist.

So far I have not had bad experiences online. As far as I am concerned, I can only encourage you to get in touch with possible new friends in places where you might never have gone.