The fact that you are reading this means you’ve met someone online, you’ve felt some feelings (congratulations!) and now you’re having self-doubt as to whether those feelings are legitimate or if you’ve fallen off the deep end and are just some creep.
Well, first, take a deep sigh of relief, you (probably) are not a freak. In fact, thousands of people are asking the same question, which is precisely why we wrote this response, for people just like you!
So, if you don’t want to understand why what you are feeling is actually normal, and how it can be a healthy thing, although it isn’t without its dangers, then you don’t have to read further.
We’ll spill the beans right off the bat; if you met someone online, and you have feelings for them, and you are certain they have feelings for you (that’s the tricky part) then yes, you can consider your online relationship REAL.
Now, if you want to understand the reasoning and want some tips on what to use to self-evaluate your own situation to determine if what you have is legit then read on!
Prevalence of Online Relationships in 2020
First, this notion that meeting someone online is somehow lesser than meeting people in real life (from now on referred to as IRL) is an absurd notion that needs to die.
Pew Research, big dogs in the field of statistics and polling, have found that those between the ages of 18-29 over 48% admit to having met someone via an online relationship.
Now, some estimates put this figure at well over 80% when anonymity and margin of error are taken into account, which makes sense, because nobody wants to admit out loud they met their significant other via the internet.
This is an absurd notion though, that meeting someone online somehow devalues the relationship itself. It’s 2020, why WOULDN’T you use all the modern tools at your disposal to find a better match?
Long gone are the days where mom’s set you up with their friend’s family. We make decisions for ourselves and that means utilizing this thrifty little thing called the internet.
From dedicated long-term relationship sites like e-harmoney, Match.com, OKCupid, Hinge to more “immediate” oriented matching apps like AdultFriendFinder, Grindr, Tinder and Bumble (hey, some of us just want to cut to the chase!) there are a ever expanding arsenal of tools used by people today to find those who best match their personality and preferences.
Apps and dating websites aren’t even the most extreme examples of how dating online is now completely normal.
Hollywood has depicted this awkward yet ultimately fulfilling phenomenon in movies such as Her and Lars Meets a Real Girl. The former staring Joaquin Pheonix and the later staring the one and only Ryan Gosling. Creepy? How about HEARTTHROB!
Heck, as far back as 2018 a man in Japan legally married a freaking hologram. A HOLOGRAM. And while we wish him the best, we’re saying this to highlight the normalcy, the LEGITIMACY that actually dating a real human online carries, particularly when compared to some more new and extreme relationship types.
First Hand Experience
Composing this article would be incomplete without mentioning my own experiences. Having met most of my partners via nightclubs and bars, I can confidently say meeting online has actually been a big breath of fresh air.
Meeting online gives you time to breath. You can carefully evaluate someone, not just based off of appearance but of interests, hobbies, humor, before interacting.
This is in stark contrast to nightclubs and bars where the lights and noise mean you have to navigate the treacherous waters of dating by looks and body language alone, which, with enough alcohol, can turn into a full blown enigma that often ends in regretful tragedy.
Some of my most fullfilling relationships not only started online, they blossomed online. There’s a nice sense of security going to your first date having spent 2 months playfully chitchatting with your date beforehand.
What Defines a Relationship?
Now, anecdotes aside, if you want to evaluate your relationship you must first have a solid grasp of the definition.
The Cambridge dictionary describes a relationship (between two people) as “the way in which two or more people feel and behave toward each other”.
No matter where you look for a definition, you will find an elastic couple of sentences that essentially boil down to, if you feel emotions for another and they feel them for you, so that they are reciprocal to some measurable degree, you are then, technically, in a relationship.
But verifying your relationship with a dictionary is kind of lame. The meaning, the weight, the impact of a relationship is so much more than a few sentences. It is emotion. It is abstract. It is fluid. It is powerful. It is vague. It is scary. It is tantalizing. It can be all of these things at once.
Putting rigid definitions on things like relationships, love, intimacy, all of these most deep and basic of human characteristics is as futile as trying to describe the magic of a mountain peak or the emotion elicited by a bright and clear rainbow.
So we recommend you stop worrying about what Marriam-Webster think and think more about what you and your relationship partner think. Only when you understand each other well and get on the same page will your confidence in your online relationship grow.
Pros and Cons of Online Relationships
Just because your relationship is REAL doesn’t mean it is somehow better than IRL relationships. In fact, both online and IRL relationships have their benefits and their disadvantages. Speaking specifically to online relationships some of the highs and lows may include:
- No contact
- In-between state
- Potential for deceit
- Long-term is difficult, need contact eventually
- Stupid or insecure people may not understand
- Bigger ocean of candidates
- Better for introverts
- Can be emotionally fulfilling with smartphones/regular contact
- Great way to take things slow and ease into a physical relationship
We don’t want anyone to experience more heartbreak than they have to so we must caution, if you are in an online relationship there are a few things you need to stop and ask yourself before skipping off down the sidewalk in giddy glee.
First, you may feel you are in a relationship, but have you confirmed it with the other person? This is the biggest potential pitfall for online relationships. Miscommunication is the biggest thing standing between you and the answer to your question as to whether or not you are indeed in a relationship or if it’s just a casual chat/friendship.
If you have been sharing your emotions and learning more about who each other are, then it may be worth working up the courage to broach the subject of your relationship status. You can bring it up casually, but don’t play it too cool, your partner may also be worried about coming off as too lovey/clingy/fast-moving as well.
If you can both consent that you have feelings for each other, and you are both not actively involved in any other emotional relationship (physical is a different story, separating hookups from romance) then you can rest assured, you are in a successful online relationship!
Furthermore, you shouldn’t worry about what your friends, family or coworkers think about you dating someone online. First, it is actually none of their business so if you don’t want to share that’s perfectly fine.
Second, whether it’s fashion, your hairstyle, or how you talk, be careful about caring too much what others think of you. Ultimately, at the end of the day, if you are happy and you aren’t hurting anyone else, then you’re in a good spot and everyone else can go fuck themselves.