A few years ago, I was sitting in my truck at a stoplight when I noticed a bumper sticker on the car in front of me. It read: “You looked better on MySpace.” After laughing, I thought of how well this sums up so many budding online relationships.
When you meet a person online, both of you can be whoever you want. You choose what information you disclose and what pictures you share. As a result, personal faults are easily hidden. So no matter how much time you spend chatting with the other person online or over the phone, the relationship is not grounded in reality. In fact, I once received an e-mail from a young man who said that he had been dating a girl for over a year, “but we’ve never seen each other in person.”
Because of Internet technology, people are learning to communicate more effectively through a computer than face-to-face. Instead of increasing their social skills, the Internet allows them to hide. For example, a seventh-grader recently asked me, “Is it wrong to use online dating services?” The guy was twelve! While I know happily married couples who met through online Catholic dating services, I have met more teens than I can count who have ended up in unhealthy relationships that began through chat room discussions or Internet social networking sites.
Aside from the obvious risks of meeting strangers online, such relationships have their own set of problems. For example, a couple who meet online may think their relationship looks promising because they spend four hours per night getting to “know” each other online. However, when the two finally meet in person, the relationship often becomes too physical too fast.
Other times one person discovers the hidden faults of the other, but feels too emotionally attached to get out of the relationship. Sometimes meeting a person online will create a long-distance relationship that never would have come into existence otherwise. More realistic local relationships are put on hold in favor of the budding romantic interest who lives eight hundred miles away.
Therefore I would not recommend starting a dating relationship with someone you randomly meet online.