Love in the era of the internet is complicated

Can romantic relationships that start online succeed?

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Love in the era of the internet is complicated. That should come as a surprise to no one.

The desire to find and share our lives with others is never ending, and the power to do so exponentially increases in the digital age. We’re no longer limited to the prospective matches in our village or community, and most of us are free to choose our mates rather than be subject to an arranged marriage.

Online dating mimics a search engine, only the results are human beings, and not merely other pages on the web.

This kind of access can leave some people feeling as if love has become akin to a buffet, and yet for others the struggle to find a soulmate persists.

One of the central theses of Avatar Secrets is that connection can be found in unexpected places, and for many this would be inside of a video game.

The profound and intimate relationships that arise from the collaboration and teamplay of most multiplayer games suggest significant potential for love and life long friendships. Certainly this was the case with Tamara and World of Warcraft.

However in other parts of the Internet the same kind of trust, the same kind of collaboration, the same kind of welcoming spaces towards women are just not there.

Yet that doesn’t stop us, that doesn’t stop the human desire to connect.

Annmarie Chiarini is an activist organizing around the need for stronger laws that respect the consent and rights of all users, especially those like herself who (against their wishes and much to their horror) have found naked pictures of themselves online.

“Going into a relationship, I should expect that this person is going to be betray my trust? I should expect this person is going to deceive me. I think that that’s a very sad reflection on how this criminal behaviour has negatively impacted intimate relationships.”

There are so many expectations, pressures, and even incentives for us to connect with others, be intimate, and quite frankly be human.

Yet sometimes the consequences of a moment of trust, a moment of inhibition, a moment of pleasure, can come to haunt us for the rest of our lives.

Whether it’s finding a soulmate, or being betrayed or conned by someone we once believed was a friend, the power and potential of online romantic relationships are too tempting to ignore.

Perhaps then it is up to us, as a society to shift the imbalance back into our favour, by organizing against revenge porn while also destigmatizing the consensual sharing of intimate imagery.

Annmarie Chiarini describes the paradox at play: “Perpetrators of this crime know that they have an incredible amount of power over their victims. They know that this is going to embarrass them, they know that this is going to shame them, they go into this knowing that this is the ultimate “I’ll show you”. And they’re right, society does not treat victims of revenge porn kindly.”