On my first foray into online dating, I made a profile on a popular matching website, chose my most flattering pictures, and wrote a short and sweet bio. It wasn’t long before I matched with someone, and received my first “hello!” with a little trill and a flashing pop-up chat window. Despite the fact that this was my first time dating online, I was looking for a serious commitment.
A month later, I entered into an exclusively online relationship with an Minnesota State University Moorhead student—all the way across the country from my small college in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. I was initially worried about a long-distance relationship with someone I had never met before, and did not plan to ever meet. However, I soon realized there are many positives to dating via text, call, and video chat.
If you suffer from social anxiety, the lack of face-to-face interaction involved in a long-distance relationship can be an amazing relief. Some people struggle with copious amounts of physical contact, so a strictly online relationship, and never meeting in person, is the perfect solution.
Not to mention, if you are self-conscious, a long-distance online relationship can be a real blessing. You don’t have to worry as much about your appearance, as most of the relationship will take place over text and the occasionally grainy video chat.
Personally, I need space to myself at times. With an online relationship, I could stay offline when I was tired, or busy, or simply did not feel like interacting with my partner. No further explanation necessary. I also had much more privacy in my long-distance relationship, as I could easily hide the embarrassing parts of myself (my less-than-spotless room, or my all-day pajama days).
Finally, one of the aspects of my long-distance, online relationship that I considered a significant advantage was the break-up. Ending our relationship went much more smoothly, as once we agreed to never contact each other again. there was no possibility we would ever run into each other. If you need to leave an online relationship, for whatever reason, there are ways to block the other person, and prevent further contact. This is much more difficult with an in-person relationship.
A few months in, however, I noticed the cons creeping in all around me. I began to feel touch-starved; I craved affection, and cuddles. I could not touch or hear my significant other in person, which meant a severe lack of intimacy. Furthermore, physical attraction played no part in our relationship, so I never know if we were physically compatible. That particular worry weighed heavily on me.
I also greatly missed going on dates. We could never go to the movie theater, take a walk in a local park, go roller-skating, or spend a sunny day at the beach. Despite this, scheduling issues were still quite prevalent, as we had to organize phone and video calls each week. Additionally, it was harder to give gifts, as they had to be sent through the mail.
One of the most heartbreaking moments in my relationship was seeing my significant other cry on video chat. I could not physically comfort my partner; I felt incredibly useless, sitting at my computer and watching the tears fall, not able to do anything but talk. The most haunting question is, “What if they need you?” If your partner is ill or (god forbid) is in a terrible accident, a far long-distance relationship is not ideal.
The largest fear throughout my long-distance, online dating experience was cheating. I had no way of knowing if my partner was seeing other people. I could never really tell if my partner was telling the truth or lying. An exclusively online relationship involves so much trust, as mental games and psychological abuse are very real, very scary possibilities.
Finally, as someone in an exclusively online relationship, you will often hear, “That’s not real though!” Everyone will want to weigh in on the validity of your relationship. The discussion and judgements of whether your relationship is "real enough” will pervade every conversation in which you happen to mention your partner. Remember the you cannot allow other people to dictate or define your relationship.
Despite all of the negatives, my first exclusively online, long-distance relationship was an experience I will never forget. I learned how to trust, how to stand up for myself and my partner, and how to handle physical distance from someone I was emotional intimate with. It was a different experience, for sure, but I would never say call it a mistake, since it helped build my relationship skills in a unique way.