Online Text Relationships

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Daniel V.
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Online Text Relationships

Post by Daniel V. »

Following are J.R. Suler's hypotheses about online text relationships from a 2004 article, "The psychology of text relationships. In Online Counseling: a manual for mental health professionals" (R. Kraus, J. Zack & G. Striker, Eds). London: Elsevier Academic Press.

Though dated, Suler's observations still hold well even when hypothesizing. I would almost say that these are by now accurate observations that many who have spent years participating in online text discussions are aware of from personal experience and assessments.

Personally, my interest in this goes a little further - at least for me - in how this medium changed and changes the natural, psychological mechanisms of communication especially as we currently witness it in current social media. In other words, the hypotheses indicate the 'how' of it, but the 'why' and especially the 'results' overall are also undoubtedly of interest. As an example, from the 1st category: "- Text communication restructures the way people think about their relationships and themselves." There are those who have used this, both foreign and domestically, to effect much of the confusion nowadays in the U.S. and elsewhere. I trust the readers of this are savvy enough to understand what I'm referring to without my getting too socio-politically referential. 8-)

Please excuse the length of this topic but I figure that if eventually others join in with their observations then having it on the forum page facilitates the quoting aspect better than copy and paste between tabs.

I will add my own observations on some of the elements but I think it better to just post the topic itself and let it stand for a week or so in case others want to comment straightaway.

Here is the brief intro that Suler gives to the hypotheses:

"Even though cyberspace is filled with all sorts of sights and sounds - and becoming more multimedia rich every day - most relationships among people form and grow within typed text. E-mail probably accounts for most one-on-one relating, but message boards, chat, and instant messaging also bring people together. Even web sites, especially those of an autobiographical nature, can lead to friendships and romances. The site starts out as a one-to-many relationship between the creator and the readers - and over time, contact via private e-mail between a reader and the writer refines that relationship and moves it to a more personal, one-on-one level. Such text relationships are not unique to cyberspace. Writers have connected to their readers for as long as there have been books. Letters have supplemented f2f relationships since the birth of the alphabet. It's just that cyberspace has made text relationships so much easier and efficient as on a day-to-day level.

"So how do text relationships work? What are the pros and cons? Below are a list of hypotheses that I've gather from articles I read and written, and from my discussions with all sorts of people, online and off. I've gathered them loosely into 7 categories. Some of these hypotheses are more robust than others, but they are JUST hypotheses - not truths etched into stone. If there is any single truth in psychology, it's the fact that people are different. Which of these do you find to be true?"


The next post shows the hypotheses.

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Re: Online Text Relationships

Post by Daniel V. »

Hypotheses about online text relationships in 7 categories by J.R. Suler:
(please read previous, opening post in case you linked to this posting directly}

1. The subjective experience of text communication

- Text talk is a sophisticated, expressive art form. People vary greatly in their ability to express themselves via text. While it can be learned, some people are naturally good at it.
- Some people are more sensitive in detecting the meaning and mood expressed "between the lines" of text communication. There is a special type of interpersonal empathy that is unique to text relationships.
- The psychological meaning people associate with "writing" (often related to school years) will affect how they experience text communication. People with insecurities about writing may prefer chat over e-mail.
- Some people may experience text communication as a type of "merging" with the mind of the online other.
- People experience the other's text message as a "voice" inside their head.
- Text communication restructures the way people think about their relationships and themselves.
- People may experience text from their online relationships as being "pieces" of those relationships.
- Some people experience their message as a piece of themselves.
- Even though we may not be fully aware of it, we always develop a mental image of the other person in a text relationship.
- Humor, and especially sarcasm, is difficult to express in text relationships.
- Text relationships lend themselves to "multi-tasking" - i.e., carrying on multiple relationships simultaneously.
- In text relationships one participates in the relationship while simultaneously observing oneself in the relationship ("seeing" oneself on screen).
- Receiving no reply in a text relationship tends to result in projections as to why the person did not reply.
- A person's ambivalence about intimacy may be expressed in text communication, which is a paradoxical blend of allowing people to be honest and to feel close, while also maintaining their distance.


2. The relationship between f2f (face to face) and online relationships

- For some people, text relationships encourage more self-expression and self-reflection than f2f communication. For others, less.
- Some people experience text relationships as more predictable, safe, and less anxiety-provoking than f2f relationships.
- People who are very verbal and expressive offline may not be in an online relationship. And vice versa.
- People who lack f2f verbal skills may prefer text relationships.
- Some important aspects of a person may be obvious in-person but almost invisible online.
- Some people prefer the text relationship over knowing each other f2f.
- Elements of people's online relationships may reveal what's missing in their f2f relationships.
- In text relationships, some people explore their interpersonal style and experiment with new behaviors. What is learned online can be carried into offline relationships.


3. Absent f2f cues and stimulation

- Lacking f2f cues, text communication can be limited, ambiguous and an easy target for misunderstanding and projection.
- Lacking f2f cues, text communication disinhibits people, encouraging them to be more open and honest than usual, or encouraging them to act out inappropriately.
- The lack of touch and body contact can significantly reduce the experience of intimacy in text relationships.
- Some people are attracted to the silent, less visually stimulating, and non-tactile quality of text relationships.
- People struggling with social anxiety or with issues about shame and guilt may be drawn to text relationships in which they cannot be "seen."
- Text communication enables people to avoid the f2f cues that are distracting or irrelevant to the relationship.
- Without the distraction of f2f cues, text relationships enable people to connect more directly to the other's psyche.


4. Saved messages

- Saved messages can be accurate information for reliving and reevaluating the relationship. They provide continuity in the relationship.
- Quoted text may be cited as "proof" of something someone previously said, but quoted text can be taken out of context and juxtaposed with other quoted text, which distorts its meaning.
- Saving text dialogues can help people reduce errors in recall, some of which might be due to distorted perceptions of the other person.
- Saved text read at different points in time will be interpreted differently based on changes in the person's state of mind and the overall psychological context in which the text is read.
- People vary widely in how much of their messages they save and what types of messages they save. This reflects their attitude and style of being in the relationship.
- By using several sections of quoted text within a single message, multiple layers of one's online relationship can be addressed simultaneously... sometimes considerably different layers.


5. and Pacing (asynchronous/synchronous factors)

- The ability to delay responding in e-mail and message boards can enhance self-control, self-reflection, and the assimilation of experiences in the relationship.
- Delayed text communication enables people to say exactly what they want to say.
- During emotional points in an asynchronous text relationship, people sometimes respond immediately without taking advantage of the time delay.
- Because text communication is slower than speaking, people are motivated to "get to the point."
- People vary widely in the intensity and frequency that they communicate via text. Adjusting to the other person's pace is important in the relationship.
- The short and long delays in text exchanges require people to get "in synch" with each other for communication to be more effective.
- A change in the pacing of messages reflects a change in the relationship.
- In the course of an ongoing text relationship, there will be a changing rhythm of spontaneous and carefully thought out messages that parallels the ebb and flow of the relationship itself.
- The easy and continuous opportunity to send a message to the other person can create a comforting feeling that the connection to that person is "always there" or even that the other is "always present." Feelings of separation may be eased.
- The feeling of the other's presence is stronger in synchronous communication in that they are present in-the-moment. The feeling of the other's presence is stronger in asynchronous communication in that people have more opportunity to express complexity and subtlety in what they write about themselves.
- Meeting an e-mail or message board friend in chat is a sign of increased intimacy and/or commitment to the relationship. Contacting a chat friend via e-mail is a sign of increased intimacy and/or commitment to the relationship.
- Some people enjoy and benefit from the spontaneity and specific temporal boundary that is involved in chat meetings.
- Chat meetings create a point-by-point connectedness that enhances feelings of intimacy, presence, and "arriving together" at ideas.


6. Message construction

- Text relationships are not the same as traditional "writing" activities, including letter writing.
- The overall visual construction of a text message (frequency of line breaks, size of paragraphs, insertion of quoted text, etc.) reveals a person's mood and state of mind.
- Writing style and effectiveness changes as a result of what is happening in the ongoing relationship. Composition can become more casual, detailed, and expressive as the relationship develops and people feel safe to explore; it regresses when they feel threatened, hurt, or angry.
- In an ongoing text relationship, the people involved develop their own private "language" of abbreviations, symbols, and phrasings.
- The subject title of a message is an important layer of the communication. It can lead into, highlight, elaborate, or even contradict a particular idea in the message.
- Even very simple behaviors, like saying "hello," can be expressed in many different, subtle ways.
- Parenthetical expressions (behaviors or internal thoughts described as "asides" in parentheses) can be as expressive or perhaps more expressive than f2f cues.
- The use of emoticons, trailers, caps, and other keyboard techniques adds an almost infinite variety of creative expressiveness to a text message.


7. identity and interpersonal styles

- The person's writing style and message format reflects his/her personality. Changes in style and format reflect changes in mood and thinking.
- Some people express their "true self" in text relationships, or believe they do.
- Despite conscious attempts to present oneself exactly as one wishes, hidden elements of one's personality unconsciously surface in text communication.
- The online name/s and identities that people choose for themselves reflects their personalities.
- Socially anxious people may enjoy and benefit from text relationships. Text relationships can be used to desensitize social anxieties and build social skills.
- Talking about one's online text relationships with friends and family helps one gain a better perspective on those relationships.
- As a way to avoid "saying their goodbyes," online relationships and groups may tend to "fizzle out" by people gradually sending fewer and fewer messages.
- Even though audio and visual internet technology will become easier and less expensive to use, text communication will never disappear and will be preferred by some people.

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Re: Online Text Relationships

Post by Tobias »

This topic is of special interest to me. Just like you, Daniel, I am online for a long time and I have experienced online relationships of different kinds, including romantic ones. The observations you make are spot on, but also revealing. They show there are many possibilities and there is not one format. The post reveals a certain assumption, namely that there are certain patterns in online relationships that are somehow less complex than f2f relationships. Instead these various observations show that the relationship in question determines much of the character, more than the medium. In my experience that is indeed true. Just like face to face relationships are different so are online ones.

That is not to say that the medium does nothing. In fact in my opinion it does a lot. It restructures the temporality and spatiality of the relationship. In my view every relationship is a play of revealing and hiding in the sense that you reveal some aspects and hide others. This holds I think for every relationship, romantic, or sexual or everyday work, family etc. The intensity and the type of things one reveals just differ. In a sexual or romantic relationship you display things you would not otherwise do and what you reveal is more intense, intertwined with stronger feelings of shame and desire or lust, all rather primordial. Now the revealing and hiding is altered because of the medium. It may be a lot easier to reveal things to someone who one does not see. On the other hand other things are much more difficult to reveal. Moreover, everything revealed is verbalised, even bodily feelings, in this translation things are altered and lost. However, other things are enhanced. One has time to think, to formulate, one can switch off or wait till one finds the words. all kinds of oddities which mar f2f communication, sounds from outside, the clumsiness of stuff in the way, even the limitations that clothes impose are gone. So what is revealed and remains hidden is different, but the relationship itself is the same. It is after all the same game of hiding and revealing and so the relationships themselves are equally complex and I also think equally intense, though also this may differ from person to person, just like some see the sexual act as something momentous and complex and other see in it a physical interaction for fun and with fleeting character. I am therefore not puzzled with these contrary statements, I find the recognisable, because every relationship is different on or offline.

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Re: Online Text Relationships

Post by Daniel V. »

"The observations you make are spot on"_Tobias
I just want to make clear that while I provide a brief interpretation at the outset, the observations (hypotheses) listed are that of J.R. Suler.

"The post reveals a certain assumption, namely that there are certain patterns in online relationships that are somehow less complex than f2f relationships. Instead these various observations show that the relationship in question determines much of the character, more than the medium."_Tobias
On this point, the thing that gives me concern is the character of the medium. A text-to-text (T2T) relationship is already representational by default. Language, which we can consider the most sophisticated of representations used by us as human beings, still only 'represents' things, it is not the things in themselves. This does not mean that this representational device is without value since for all intents and purposes it is the prime currency of information exchange such as when we use it in emergency situations, in levels of social progress, and even here in our forum discussion.

In a face-to-face (F2F) relationship its foundational character is going to be different than that of T2T. With F2F the relationship takes place in an existential setting which we as human beings have become accustomed to through the many millennia of our existence; we are 'wired' for it. For example, if 'Mary' and I meet in real life and have a relationship then both of us are equipped to deal with all the variables and direction - whether positively or negatively - that could develop because in general all those variables are real-time anchored, they have an 'existential substance', so to speak. Mary and I know that the other exists because many elements in real-time have verified and validated the 'natural' presence of the other.

In a T2T relationship the foundational character is different in that the variables are not as 'anchored' in real time as they are in F2F, they are now also anchored in another layer of representation. This 'double-layer' works well for example in this discussion you and I are having here because we're 'invested' in it to what we could say is an 'academic' degree of involvement. But with people and elements in our immediate existential environment the investment can be of a deeper, more immediately palpable degree. You are probably familiar with the phrase, "Never the twain shall never meet". In a T2T relationship there is a suspension of disbelief where the twain seems as one. Putting it another way, it can make some think that the map IS the territory. Of course, that makes for a different premise of engagement and the communication funding it. Crossing a range of mountains on a map is easy, crossing them on foot is another thing.

Instead of continuing only academically with this, here is a personal, real-time example and in it we will also name the other person, 'Mary':

Years ago, around 2000 give or take a year, I met Mary in an online writer's forum. From the start we found common ground on many things and even in the differences we had a good rapport. As time proceeded we spent more of that time with each other via emails than on the forum and at one point we were emailing each other almost on a daily basis. We 'talked in text' about everything under the sun: our lives, what we did, the people we knew, and while she was younger than me we were still relatively near enough in years that neither of us had to overly explain the 'experience' details about whatever was discussed. Then one day came the first phone call. I can't remember which one suggested it but it was evident that both of us looked forward to it.

The phone conversation went well. I heard her voice for the first time, it was soft, feminine, yet that strength and confidence of character that I had witnessed in text was also there in her voice. I can't remember for how long we spoke, it seemed brief in retrospect but it was enough to 'lift' the relationship to another level. It now seemed more, 'real'. From then on it was a mix of text on the forum, emails and phone conversations every couple of weeks or so. No doubt we were both aware of that different level and neither of us wanted to overly tamper with any of the modes. It was an unspoken sense that things were progressing yet still fragile, as is usually the case in most relationships at the outset.

Between us there was thousands of miles but as the relationship developed the distance did not seem to exist. Every day we drew nearer to each other and we shared intimacies. Yes, we even 'sexted' now and then but we knew each other well enough that we didn't have to resort to, shall we say, graphic abandon. As 'writers' those exchanges we were more high-end about it. Think of Lucy Worsley's accounts in her documentaries about romanticism and you get an idea. All very 'proper' yet with some humorous undercurrents here and there.

As time went on I felt as if I knew this person, this woman, more than I had known some of the others in my life previously. There was a connection, a palpable one. There were emotions I felt for her as 'real' as I had felt for the others. From what she expressed about me, it seemed likewise.

One day she emailed me and told me of how she went for a walk in the park. She said that she spent some time there and mentioned to me how she felt that I had awakened some kind of kundalini energy in her. How she could barely think of anything else, that there were bouts of anxiety and confusion. I had also felt some of these things, really felt them. Then, probably on the same day of that email and with the more recent communications in text and phone replaying in my mind, I sat quietly at my desk, the computer may have been on but it was playing to no one. The keyboard was not touched. In that silent reverie, something snapped. Whatever 'foundation' had been there for Mary and me seemed to shake a little, I could almost hear the whispered splintering of it and apprehensive that its volume could increase. Something inside me said, "This is wrong."

A week went by and we had no communications with each other. Maybe because of our 'connection' we both realized what was happening. I then sent her an email explaining all that I had been experiencing in recent days, all that I had thought about, that even though I had the utmost respect and affection for her, that I would not continue any further on this road. I wanted to continue communicating with her but no longer in this manner where we're having real-time reactions to largely representational prompting . Her response was that she understood what I meant but I could detect in the way she responded that she felt as if I were calling off our relationship. Again, I assured her that was not the case but that the way in which it was developing with all the text and emails just didn't seem 'healthy'. The communications continued between us but I think we both knew a corner had been turned.

As time proceeded the communications went from once a week to once every few months and then to a couple of times a year. The rapport and sharing of interest was still good but it was obvious, though unspoken, that we were no longer in the emotional 'stratospheres' provoked by text. Some more years passed and then there was no more communication.

Then one day I left the apartment I was living in at the time to walk to the local market for some things. As I walked by the cars in the parking lot I passed one on the passenger side and I noticed a woman looking at me and there was a man on the driver's side also looking. She didn't say anything. I gave a slight nod of acknowledgment as I would in any such situation and continued on my way. Some time later, whether weeks or months I can't remember, the face of the woman in that car appeared in my mind. That was Mary, in person, looking at me silently. I sat there at my desk, silently. I had seen photos of Mary before but at that moment passing the car none of them registered. If it had would I have said anything? Would I have greeted her in surprise and delight? To this day I'm not sure what I would have done if I had recognized her immediately. Was she stalking me? No, Mary would not stalk me or anyone else just like I would never do so. We have more integrity than that. It was probably a situation where her endeavors brought her to this part of the country and she figured being in the neighborhood - why not? If someone were to ask me, are you absolutely sure that was Mary in that car? A part of me would probably hesitate in the interest of factuality. But another part of me, a deeper part, knows that was Mary, and no explanations are necessary - not even to myself. There have been times when I've thought of just sending her an email and asking outright if that was her in the car, and maybe someday I will. But would the answer and all that attends to it matter much now in this time and place removed from long ago? To be honest, I don't know. But we'll see, maybe I will sit at my desk some day and type, "Dear Mary . . .".

Once in a blue moon of years I will get a brief email from her: "Hey, how's it going? What have you been up to? Have you fallen in love with someone?" I answer just as briefly. It's been around 3-4 years since the last one. But whether the echo of emails or not through the years, I will always respect and have affection for Mary and wish her well in life. I think she knows this and wishes me the same. Maybe in some other dimension we shall enjoy a better foundation.

"- Without the distraction of f2f cues, text relationships enable people to connect more directly to the other's psyche."_J.R. Suler
When did the natural cues become distractions? When is a connection, intrusion? Do we not already 'speak' to each other's psyche in ways more than verbal? The lesson from the relationship Mary and I had was not an easy one for me. But as I look around at the world today I have to think myself lucky. Many continue for whatever reason or necessity to blur the line between representation and actuality. Some have committed suicide from text, some have killed because of it. And collectively, well, I don't think I have to give you the details as to where we all are nowadays in terms of the represented and the actual.

Maybe there are those who are in a different frame of mind and stage of life where the situation with Mary and me seems outdated, a thing of the past. Perhaps. But even so, I accept whatever the interpretation from others because I knew it was the appropriate interpretation for me, for my psyche. The juxtaposing of the representational with the actual to that degree seemed to me intrusive, almost 'alien'. But again, there may be a time in the future where there is a merging of such and from it a synthesis will emerge. If that should come about, what kind of world will that be? It makes me think of the hermetic principle that 'All Is Mind' -'That all phenomena of life, matter and energy of the material universe are thoughts of an infinite and universal, living Mind'. Could be, but for now in this time and space, for me, a painted flower is not a real flower; though I do admit that each has its reasonable merits.

"I find the recognisable, because every relationship is different on or offline."_Tobias
Yes, indeed. And I am thankful for recognizing that difference in the relationship with Mary, but also onward with all relationships on different levels; especially when it comes to the represented and the actual. :-)

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Re: Online Text Relationships

Post by Tobias »

Thank you for your post and for the personal touch. Also this is very recognisable, as is the anxiousness one feels when the textual comes closer to the real. All the events you describe, save the idea that I once saw her face in reality, I recognise, albeit in different measures. It seems to me though that what you describe is in no way qualitatively different than having a face to face relationship. It is only more pronounced because you are so aware you only have verbal cues and no bodily ones. The body is indeed important and so there is a crucial factor you are missing. We are indeed accustomed to viewing physical presence as important. The feelings though are the same as in every relationship. Also in those one sometimes wonders whether you know who the other really is. The answer being of course, no, one does not. We do not have the ability to know a thing as it really is, let alone another person. It is a relationship you know and the relationship displays different aspects of itself when we arrive in more and more situations together.

The first time a relationship becomes sexual is a big change, someone might be different than you thought he or she would be, when a relationship enters the phase that you introduce someone to your friends, same thing, the first holiday together and yes in an online relationship the first time you actually have a phone call, it may be a momentous change when it does not go well or her voice appears different from what you thought and then the first time you actually see each other... How I explain what happened between you an Mary is as follows: You wrote and it went well, it went further and it led to more intimacy. When she made herself vulnerable and said she felt something more for you, you got cold feet. That is understandable because you realise you know little about the other. In the end though it is fear, a fear of the unknown, like it also is when someone tells you he or she wants to deepen a relationship. I once did not go out with someone who asked me because suddenly more would be on the table and I did not know if I was ready for that. In de weeks leading up to that we talked had drinks after courses we both taught together and became closer. Was it wise not to go, no idea. It is not qualitatively different from you not wanting to explore what she felt. You just did not dare, or did not want, or was not ready to jump for whatever reason, but there is no metaphysical argument for it, this is just how relationships between people sometimes go, on or offline.

Was she In the car? Difficult to say. What I find odd is that there was a man next to her. I would do such a thing alone, but hey that maybe me. I once thought I saw her face, but that is nigh impossible, because I live in a rather irrelevant country in the North Western part of Europe and it was a metro stop which was also not very relevant. It is though something that lovers have, the idea of seeing the object of their affection. Also that is not different apparently between on an offline relationships.

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Re: Online Text Relationships

Post by Daniel V. »

"It seems to me though that what you describe is in no way qualitatively different than having a face to face relationship. It is only more pronounced because you are so aware you only have verbal cues and no bodily ones."
- Lacking f2f cues, text communication can be limited, ambiguous and an easy target for misunderstanding and projection._J.R. Suler
I think of it as the 'languages' of representational and actual. With regular languages you can convey/translate the same information but each language has an overall nuance of its own. I figure that you probably speak one or two languages other than your first language so you know that even if it's the same information each language has that particular quality for those who understand it. My relationship with Mary and in other ways online has shown me that qualitative difference. And even apart from my own experiences I can see how that difference has played online at large with the public. A mix of the actual and representational sometimes blending but also sometimes making an unstable hybrid.

When she made herself vulnerable and said she felt something more for you, you got cold feet. _Tobias
In actual relationships I've had 'cold feet' about something or another. In a texting relationship there was something there from the get-go that prevented my regarding the relationship as a full-fledged premise any more than I would regard a science-fiction story as gospel. My reasoning as previously noted is that the variables of an actual relationship are anchored in a real-time scenario and what that means in terms of the responsiveness of the surrounding environment whereas in a 'text' environment the surroundings are often only text and elaborations thereof. In Mary's case, and in particular another relationship, it was more the dealing with the limitations noted in Suler's quote than cold feet or other apprehension.

As for the other relationship mentioned, I was almost going to post it because it is the only other relationship where texting, etc., was heavily involved and with less pleasant consequences than the situation with Mary. I may post it later. Maybe you and others have a T2T/F2F relationship story of your own that illustrates your perspectives.

There are testimonials from people who were in online relationships and they developed into actual relationships and even marriage. If this is how they found happiness and fulfillment then far be it from me to say otherwise. But in such an instance it will always be the actual experience that confirms the representational, not the other way around. One can easily text, 'I love you', but the reality of that sentiment and others eventually and necessarily needs more than a representational mention.

No doubt all of us can cite examples where the representational confirms the actual, e.g., the deed to a home, the ownership papers for a car, a driver's license, etc. But it will always be the actual that 'carries through' and ultimately dictates the terms even to the point of eclipsing representational confirmations.

Was she In the car? Difficult to say. What I find odd is that there was a man next to her.

It is though something that lovers have, the idea of seeing the object of their affection.
_Tobias
Actually, it's not that odd when you consider 'insurance' in such a situation. She had never met me in person and realistically she did not know how things would work out if we did meet. The man could have also been a friend who had the car to get around. In short, a safeguard for whatever.

As for seeing the object of affection, the thing with that is we're talking a few years after the fact. Mary was not in my thoughts as she used to be. So much so that even with her face just a few feet from mine I had no idea who she was. Of course, I wondered why she didn't say anything right away but considering the constellations of thoughts that each one of us had about the relationship then the caution was understandable.

Suler's observations all have their merits but for me this one rings the bell cleanly:

- Text communication restructures the way people think about their relationships and themselves._ J.R. Suler

Indeed. I would add that not only the way people think, but also the way they 'act' about the relationships and themselves. All of us have seen many types of 'actors' online and offline.

I've always said that what you interact with, interacts with you. Many are unaware or beginning to become aware that this medium and its representational features has also been restructuring them. Maybe it's an inter-dimensional conspiracy. But more likely, maybe I just need another cup of coffee. :-)

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Re: Online Text Relationships

Post by Tobias »

I agree that there is a qualitative difference between texting and meeting in the flesh. Indeed the point is well taken that a text relationship may develop in a physical one ut when it is the other way around you start wondering about the viability of that relationship. Of course we share more information when we meet in the flesh and also expose ourselves a lot more. Physical toucing is something different from saying "I touch you". Using voice and actual calling is in that sense already a step more intimate than only text. I have no problem with the idea of difference an levels of intensity, but I do not share your metaphysical / ontological distinction between real and unreal, or as you put it 'actuality' implying the other is potential only, or representational. In any case the Platonic / Aristotelian distinctions you make.

Probably this is because I am a skeptic when it comes to relationships. There is no 'real' or 'actual' relationship. they are all representational and ever "I love you" can and will be revoked at some point. For some happy couples it will be after they are dead but for most earlier. I find especially questions like "do you love me?" or "do you miss me" to be very conceited questions. If I love you you will know it by my actions. If I am not saying that I miss you I probably do not because if I did I would be in contact by now. They are games of bondage, which are fine to play but in no way 'real' or actual. They are real or actual in as far as they are meaningful to the protagonists in the relationship and protagonists might feel deeply involved in text, or voice, or distance or when living in the same house. And sure each of these games differ in intensity, but none of them are real in any metaphysical sense. They are narratives, representations, there is nothing beyond....

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Re: Online Text Relationships

Post by Daniel V. »

Tobias wrote:
April 5th, 2020, 5:49 am
Probably this is because I am a skeptic when it comes to relationships.

For a skeptic there would have to be something that is regarded more 'real' than something else. Usually it revolves around verifiable experience, i.e., 'I have to see it before I believe it.' For example, there are skeptics who doubt UFOs and would cite that there is no 'actual' proof of them other than accounts from others, indistinct photos or videos that cannot be considered conclusive, or an actual, material craft that anyone could see and touch right in front of them. I must admit that with many things in life I've been a skeptic but as I've progressed through the years of my life I have had to accept that even if I were never to see or touch an actual UFO that does not mean they don't exist. They simply did/do not exist in my existential paradigm. From the ontological position, then my belief/disbelief is merely a bubble in the ontological ocean. What is left to me then is what I have validated in my personal paradigm. And that is where the skeptic ultimately recognizes that he or she is in the same boat as the believer, merely on different ends or sides. But for right now that's going far afield so let's contain it to the particulars at hand.

From what I may consider my personal paradigm, the best choice I can make, and what I believe to be the healthier one, is that there is more of an actuality to face-to-face relationships than text-to-text. For example, having cash in hand is far more actual than looking at my bank statement, the former is operational whereas the latter is potential represented. Granted, I could regard them both as representational but that would be like placing myself in the middle of the aforementioned ontological ocean with no land in sight; a predicament that would elicit far more anxiety than simply being 'comfortably offshore'. It may indeed be as you noted that, "..there is nothing beyond", but what I've learned about myself through this journey of life is that psychologically and physiologically there is a core need to think, if not outright believe, that there is a beyond. As example, when you get up in the morning there has to be something in the beyond even if it only be the 'beyond' of the day that awaits you. It could be the work that you do, the people that you know and meet, and so on. If there were none of this and all was representational then that would be an existential dilemma of the first category. The 'inner' would be inert. I suspect it is such a condition that prompts suicide in many. I'm not saying that you, Tobias, entertains such, I'm saying that there are those who would.

In the most concrete terms, the sensorium has to have a reason even if it be a vague and undeclared one. With all my senses, whether physical or psychological, I have to engage in whatever measure with an 'actual' element rather than a represented one. If that were not the case there would be no consciousness, no reason to exist. In that, 'game of bondage', there is no winning. Do any of us ever experience a thoroughly satisfying and irrefutable 'win'? I don't know, and if I were to go by experience I would say that the wins are modest. Even if I won a multi-million dollar jackpot the win would be modest and even negligible compared to the 'I', the 'self', winning the game of bondage. Is there even a possibility of winning that game? Well, that's where 'religions', 'teachings', and all sort of advice and suggestions have been made throughout millennia. But if you want one that's really freaky, I once read an author who said that one has to achieve transcendence to the 'realm of permanence' from the game while you're alive, you can't do it if you're dead. That in fact you are alive to attempt the transition. Man, even here in Las Vegas that's got to be the roughest game in town.

So, I believe in the actual, I believe there is a beyond. 'I' have no other choice. Now, I leave you with this: Can the representational somehow 'alchemically' be made actual? That's one I'm trying to figure out. :D

I hope my explanation has not been too cryptic but you and I have had discussions in the past and I figure you can easily deduce the points, concrete and abstract, in what I have noted.

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