When Love Gets Virtual

Since t’is the Season to be Merry and you probably have nothing better to do, lets take a quick survey. How many of these apply to you?
  • You are currently talking to a guy (girl) on the phone/Facebook/email or some other form of telecommunication on a daily basis. 
  • Whenever something good or bad happens in your life, he (she) is the first to know.
  • Instead of going out to partake in real life activities, you sometimes stay home to talk to him (her).
  • When you do go out, you feel guilty talking to other guys (girls). In fact, you don’t really consider yourself single.
  • However, sex is something you haven’t experienced in awhile. 
Is this you? If so, you are suffering from Virtual Relationship Syndrome, the biggest form of human procrastination since Angry Birds.

Two summers ago, I met a guy at a wedding in the OC. He was in his 30s, Russian like me, smart and sarcastic in a way that kept me entertained for hours. In fact, on the night we met, we stayed up talking until 5am. Sure, he ran a medical marijuana business and was still obsessed with his ex, but I decided to like him nonetheless. 

On the last night, we were having so much fun that I somehow managed to miss my shuttle to the airport. He got his car from the valet and left the party to take me to LAX, a two-hour drive away. As I stumbled onto the plane, still drunk, I was sure that I had met my Prince Charming.
Prince Charming and I began talking on the phone on a daily basis. As the weeks went by, he became a close friend and confidant, the go-to person for anything interesting or upsetting happening in my life. He kept promising to come to New York, but the medical marijuana business was suffering, and it never seemed to be the right time. One day, I announced that I had been accepted to school in Paris. He called me at the airport to wish me luck, after which we never spoke again.  
I don’t know what happened to my Prince Charming, and I probably never will. While I’m happy to have gotten to know him, I cannot help but wonder – what was the point of this whole thing? Why did I spent two months of my life attached to my iPhone, involved in a fruitless virtual relationship that clearly wasn’t going places? 
The problem with Virtual Relationship Syndrome is that it is highly addictive. After all, it is only human nature to get attached. After all, the regular communication fills a certain void in a single person’s heart – the longing for a companion, a listener, a friend. However, it also functions as a distraction from reality, particularly the fact that you are still going to bed alone every night.
VRS also builds up an immense pressure around the next meeting (or, in the case of The Catfish, the first). Will you have chemistry, what if its awkward, what if the sex is terrible and you are forced to endure the entire weekend together? The more you talk to somebody, the more your expectations grow. Suddenly, the person becomes somebody very particular in your mind, an image that doesn’t always match up to reality.
*The Catfish – VRS developed as the result of meeting online. 
I’m not telling you to give up on your your virtual love. Unlike generations before us, we are  fortunate to have a chance to meet people from all over the world and to explore these relationships, allowing them to take on a different form. My only advice is that you lay some ground rule, making sure that you don’t wait too long to see the person in real life. In fact, if you don’t make plans to see each other after a month of talking, its time to cut your losses and move on. 

And while you wait to be reunited with your virtual Prince Charming, try stepping out into reality for a moment.  See your friends and family, go to a party, enjoy the human interactions in your life. Somewhere out there in the real world, in the real city that you live in, a great person may be lurking. So peel your eyes off your iPhone and take a look. 

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