Have you ever stopped to ponder the negativity you receive from some when you admit that you are meeting or are chatting with a person you met online? Almost inevitably comes the warning of fakes, frauds, and axe murderers masquerading as decent people and the high likelihood that the person with whom you are corresponding is one of them.

Yet when we examine the history of past, supposed, loves who have broken our hearts, many of whom we met under more personal circumstances such as work, church, friends of friends, or social gatherings, how is it that we can compare those as being more legitimate or genuine than the budding romance or friendship of an online acquaintance? I contend that the longer you talk to someone online, the more likely it is that you are talking to the person more genuine than even his or her family and friends talk to everyday.

When it comes down to dating, men especially, find it necessary to put on their best even if it is well beyond what they can financially sustain: Spending more money than they can afford and creating an illusion of having it far more together than reality.

Likewise women pursue men in a manner that lead him to believe she will submit to him in a way that cannot be respectfully sustained in a long-term relationship. These two competing frauds set couples up for inevitable failure.

It is always admirable to put forth your best, but at the cost of becoming so plastic that you are no longer real only creates a cycle of failed relationships where you stay together only long enough for the novelty to wear off, the sex to get stale, he no longer spends as much as he used to, or she is always ‘bitchin’ about something. Push the reset button. Start all over again.

Usually this cycle continues until it becomes too expensive to get rid of the person because of children, mutual investments like a house, or a reliance on the other person’s income. Then comes the phony compromise of ‘living with it’ where nothing is talked about. But if it doesn’t come out in the wash, it will in the rinse.

The Internet is “The Rinse Cycle”. This cycle does not just exist in intimate relationships, but family relationships too. For as close and as loved that you think you are by your family, husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or friends, how many of those CLOSE people would you be afraid to let see the pictures you put in your album, the things you write about, the groups that you are a member of, or the openness of your sexual conversations? I have heard every excuse from “my momma would never understand that I like black people or am bisexual” to “daddy would disown me and put me out and I need their support.”

The danger of entering into relationships online is that when it occurs between people who have something to hide, it is all too easy to end it over any little thing because the emotional investment has no witnesses amongst the people who should matter.

Then there is the danger of ending a relationship with someone who may “out you” as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or swinger, interracial lover, or whatever your relationship “secret” may be. It is usually not the lies that someone online tells you that can hurt you. Those lies, sooner or later, always come out. It is the secrets they choose to keep about themselves from the other people in their lives that you have to decide whether or not to become a part of.

Not all these, so called, secrets are things that anyone should be ashamed of. It is said that a prophet is with honor except in his own land. Why? Well it’s the same reason why you can be the heavyweight champion of the world and go home and still have your four foot eight inch grandmama still try to whoop your ass. Once someone knows your history of failure, it is difficult for them to accept the strength and greatness of your accomplishments or that you have any potential at all.

Most of these secrets are born of traditions and ways of thinking that we have been taught but have outgrown and we really don’t know how to say so without believing we will cause harm by simply being who we are. So we escape from the prison of our daily existence to the internet where we don’t have to be as poor as we are, or made to feel as stupid as somebody wants us to believe we are, or don’t have to be as “religious” as everybody thinks they are… where we can just be and get real.

We say things out of passion and foolishness and freedom in a forum far removed from the judgment that surrounds us. Made alive by an electronic community that often feels more spiritually grounded than the reality that resumes when we turn from the screen.

While online, we seek out others and form tribes of free spirits amongst strangers sharing aspects of our lives, our joys, and our pains, in ways that we do not always have the luxury of experiencing when we are not at the keyboard.

Because of this, many choose to live online and they “power down” their existence when they power down their computer. I have met and talked with men of hard laboring lives, who should be kings, secretaries who should be poets, people of poverty whose wisdom is priceless… none of whom the people in their everyday lives would ever imagine the greatness of admiration that we who are blessed to partake of them online have for their contributions to our lives. Many of them are you who are reading this now.

There is something about the soul of a person that is revealed the more they participate in an online community: Some of it good, and some of it bad. But all of it a much more clearer picture than the charade of trying to get to know someone through all of the influences everyone else wants to impose upon you about them.

Why is it that other people most fear the relationships they are granted the least influence upon? It is always masqueraded as “concern” but if we are indeed grown men and women, I think it has to be another reason. My answer: Misery loves company. Never before has anyone had the absolute freedom and privacy to get to know someone on their own terms without the fear and embarrassment of someone close to them putting things forth before they are ready.

I have watched relationships build and flourish online and by the time others had “access”, it was already solid enough to handle the negativity and bad taste of “close friends and relatives”. In fact, marriages from Internet meetings are proving to have a stronger bond than traditional meetings.

According to Dr. Andrea Baker, Associate Professor of Sociology at Ohio University and author of the Hampton Press book, Double Click: Romance and Commitment Among Online Couples, “Online couples can potentially have a higher success rate or longevity than offline couples, or those who did not meet first online.” In her research, Baker learned that couples who first met online:

* Have many interests in common, as they have either met in a virtual community or discussion group designed to share those topics, or they selected each other from a dating site because of similar or complementary leisure and work pursuits.

* Have chosen each other from a much wider pool of people than they would likely find in everyday life, increasing chances of compatible personalities and lifestyles.

* Wrote to each other online for a time, revealing themselves and getting to know more aspects of each other before they became involved in activities other than their own focused communication. They may have developed their own communication style that they can carry into their offline lives together.

* Related first by email or chat or later by phone without overemphasizing physical chemistry, which can attract people but can also overshadow conflicts or problematic issues that will surface later.

A 2004 Match.com survey revealed that:

* Match.com couples tended to date for a shorter period before getting married than offline couples, with 72% of Match.com couples getting married after dating for a year or less, vs. only 36% of the other couples.

* Ninety percent of Match.com married people indicated they felt “very optimistic” about their marriage, vs. 75% of the other married people. Sixty-four percent of the Match.com group knew they were in love within 5 dates, vs. 57% of the group that did not meet using an online dating service.

* In both groups “quality of character” was the most likely to be cited as the attribute that made the person surveyed fall in love with their spouse. “Sense of humor” was the second choice for both groups.

* Eleven percent of the Match.com married people surveyed said they knew they were in love with their spouse before they ever met in person, vs. 5% of the married people who did not meet on an online dating service.

* More than half the Match.com married people surveyed know friends, colleagues or family members who also met their spouse online.

The fear of online meetings from older family members and friends is mostly out of ignorance and sincere caring but I am convinced that it is mostly jealousy from our peers who just don’t have the courage to get with the times.

And these are indeed, new and exciting times where romance and tradition meet the modern age. Where once a letter was hand carried and horse ridden months to share emotions between two distant lovers, the internet traverses land and sea condensing that time and space to bridging two worlds that could have never met and fallen so in love not even twenty years ago. No one was ready for this. Yet here it is and here we all are.

Little wonder why we are struggling with the use of this new freedom: We who grew up on Pong, Atari, and Intellivision who are now parents of the X Box Generation. So much of who we are is tied to traditions that no longer matter and we just don’t know it. Or, perhaps we do. Perhaps that is what all these blogs and photo albums, and groups are all about. We live our daily lives in the wash. This thing we call the Internet, must be The Rinse. Because, sooner or later, either online or offline, we all gotta come clean.

SOURCES: Match.com, Hampton Press, PRNewswire