What Makes Internet Relationships So Desirable?
by Paula (about.com)
People are drawn to cyber-romances for the same reasons they are drawn to face-to-face romances - either they don't have a "real-life" love relationship, or there is something missing in their "real-life" love relationship. On the internet, they may indeed find what they are missing. Or, because of the partial anonymity of cyberspace - which allows lots of room for fantasy and imagination - they may only THINK they have found what they are missing.
The "exotic" and/or "magical" quality of a cyber-romances might be one factor that attracts some people. The lover's presence enters your home (or office) without the person physically being there, which feels very magical. People also enjoy the secrecy that an internet romance provides.
An internet romance can be carried out from home or office without the knowledge of others around us.
It's well known that people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn't ordinarily say or do in the face-to-face world. They loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly. Researchers call this the "disinhibition effect." When people have the opportunity to separate their actions from their real world and identity, they feel less vulnerable about opening up. Whatever they say or do can't be directly linked to the rest of their lives. They don't have to own their behavior by acknowledging it within the full context of who they "really" are. When acting out hostile feelings, the person doesn't have to take responsibility for those actions. In fact, people might even convince themselves that those behaviors "aren't me at all." In psychology this is called "dissociation."
Online relationships can happen incredibly fast.
When involved online with someone, you don't experience the negative body language or warning signals that may occur when you meet face to face.
You are taking the other person's word on trust -
while he or she may be romancing four or five others with the same lines that you find appealing.
You may be giving a false impression of yourself due to disinhibition.
What Makes Bipolar People So Vulnerable?
Hypersexuality - hypersexuality is a real problem for the manic bipolar. Because it feels very good, and very powerful, it can be a driving force that propels all thought, all feeling, and all motive. Hypersexuality often causes us to engage in flirtatious, seductive behavior that we would never otherwise consider. Hypersexuality often causes us to abandon real relationships, and it can lead us into dangerous online (and offline) situations. Worst of all, it often causes irreparable damage to integrity, dignity, and reputation.
Perceptual problems - the bipolar often wrongly interprets subtle nuances in voice and body language even when having a physical conversation. In the surreal, artificial environment of the internet, those nuances are further limited by our inability to express them electronically. It's very easy for you - and the person with whom you are communicating - to misinterpret intentions and motives.
Poor impulse control - the desire to live in the moment (without consideration of future consequences) can be real a problem, especially during periods of mania and depression.
Poor self-esteem - bipolars often have a desperate need for attention, friendship, and validation from other human beings. These feelings make us very, very vulnerable to internet stalking, manipulation, and deceit.
Grandiosity - when afflicted with grandiosity, we think we have absolute clarity and can do no wrong. All of our decisions - even the horrifically bad ones - "feel right," and they all make perfect sense.
(be aware - many of these traits apply to psychopaths and narcissists also. Only a qualified mental health professional would be able to diagnose someone as Bi-Polar)
Part 2: Warning Signals and Self-Protection
Now suppose you have met someone via the internet who appeals to you. There are several precautions you can take and a number of warning signals to watch for - signals that can tell you the person on the other end of the chat, forum or email relationship is not what he or she appears to be.
How do you protect yourself?
Be aware of the red flags listed below.
Run your relationship past an unafflicted family member or friend for a second opinion. Listen to his or her responses. Tell your online partner up front that you will be doing this. If the online person insists that you keep the relationship a secret, it's a sure bet that there are troubled waters ahead.
If at any time your instinct tells you that something is wrong; even if you know or "think" you know that person... it probably is. Run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.
Internet Relationships: Red Flags
Some warning signs that you need to watch for in ALL romantic involvements, and especially on the internet with someone you have never really met:
Pay attention to displays of anger, intense frustration or attempts to pressure or control you.
Acting in a passive-aggressive manner, making demeaning or disrespectful comments or any physically inappropriate behavior are all red flags.
Abusive or controlling behavior: Give and take, tempered by some compromise here and there, indicates that a relationship is healthy. However, if one of the persons involved wants everything on his/her terms, then serious problems can arise. Furthermore, there are those who will become verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive if they do not get their way.
Argumentative and irritating behavior: Some people are just contrary. They will question much of what you say to them, put their own twist on it, or challenge your every thought. Basically, they are full of themselves and feel that their opinion is the only one that counts.
Sexual behavior: If your online friend is pressuring you for cybersex, you just might ask yourself the question, "how many others have there been and how many more will there be?"
Inconsistent behavior: Watch for inconsistencies in information about age, interests, appearance, marital status, job, etc. Keep notes!
Avoidant behavior: Consistent failure to provide direct answers to direct questions.
No contact numbers: If you've progressed to telephone contact, and any of the following situations sound familiar, be prepared to further investigate the possibility of a spouse, live-in, or other situation you may not be aware of:
- You have to page them for them to call you back.
- They use a separate line. If so, try calling their main line at random times.
- You can only call during certain periods of time (if this applies to you, try calling at different time periods to see who answers the phone).
- They will only call you, therefore not allowing you to call them.
Protecting Yourself Online
You may enjoy flirting online with that 25-year-old blonde female hottie with the psych degree ... but imagine how surprised you would be to discover that the "young lady" you've been flirting with online, is really a balding middle-aged male factory worker with a beer belly? The sad fact is, the person that you are involved with could be lying to you.
Deception via internet is incredibly easy.An exchange of pictures via email means nothing. Go slowly. Meet regularly in the same chat room with others around and see how your love interest treats those others - and how the others interact with him or her.
DO'S AND DON'TS OF INTERNET ROMANCE
It's important to remember that online we never really know who we're talking to or what they're real motives are. Until you can internalize that fact, the internet is a dangerous place for you to be spending time.
Safety on the Net
When giving out your geographical location, limit yourself to region only, rather than the exact name of the town, province or neighborhood.
NEVER, EVER give out your work or home phone number to unfamiliar people! Establish a LONG, LONG record of trust before agreeing to do this.
If you must talk on the phone, get the telephone number to a pay telephone near you, and arrange a time when you can be at that phone. Make sure the pay phone you select is able to receive incoming calls. Be Safe!!
If you're going to put your picture on the internet, you have NO reason to believe it's going to stay where you put it. In fact, anybody can right click on an image and take it from a web site. That person that you send it to just might decide to pass it on to friends, and who would know?
Remember, once you put it up, you have NO idea where it's going.
Don't brag. You're sending an open invitation to those who would defraud you, if you tell them you own a house or two, a few cars, etc. Limit how much information you give out!
When you settle on a single relationship, make sure you set up a secondary email account to be used just for this relationship. You can quickly shut it down should things seem not right.
Now suppose the person you have met has passed all the tests and you've decided to take the next step - a face-to-face meeting.
Don't assume that because the object of your affections has not tripped any warning lights during your online relationship, it is perfectly safe to meet.
Keep in mind that when chemistry is the strongest, you are the most vulnerable.Before you dismiss an online relationship as "harmless," remember that the lack of accountability, the ease of deception, and the anonymity provided by the keyboard all make the online relationship a potential source of instability and even danger.
If you do decide to meet someone offline:
Always meet in a public place! Don't even agree that the parking lot is a good idea - you have NO PROTECTION from anything in a parking lot, and no, your car is NOT SAFE! You can be easily overpowered, you don't know if other cars in the parking lot are safe, and nobody from within another car is likely to see you.
Always tell a friend or relative where you will be and write that information down!
Never allow yourself to be picked up for the first meeting. If you don't own transportation, get a ride from a friend, take a cab, or bus. Do not become a statistic! It is never safe to leave your home with a total stranger or to give a total stranger your address - and no matter how well you think you know someone you met online, at this point he or she IS a total stranger.
Women - never leave your purse unattended, even if the person you are meeting offers to watch it for you. Contained within your purse or whatever you carry is not only the obvious personal information, but your car and house keys. You may not notice they're gone in time.
Never leave your drink on the table or bar! If you have to go to the bathroom, or leave for whatever reason, take your drink with you. If that is not possible, dump it out! Order a fresh one when you return. Rohypnol - commonly known as the date rape drug - is not the only drug you need to be concerned about.
If possible, get a cellular phone. Even if everything goes great, what if the unthinkable were to happen and you were followed home? Lock the car, drive to a busy lighted area, and don't open your car door for ANY reason unless you see the red lights of a police car in your rear view mirror ... and even then, only open that window about an inch. You are safe inside your car if you restrict access. The cell phone is your friend - use it.
Be very aware of your surroundings! Memorize important landmarks such as where the telephone is, park in a well-lit area, and ask someone to walk you to your car in the event the meeting does not go as well as you had hoped. You only have one life, protect it!
A NOTE ABOUT STALKING AND HARASSEMENT
Cyberstalking is defined as "the use of the Internet, e-mail or other electronic communications device, including IM services, to stalk or harass a person."
Cyberstalkers usually target their victims through chat rooms, message boards, discussion forums and e-mail. Cyberstalking takes many forms such as: threatening or obscene e-mail; spamming (in which a stalker sends a victim a multitude of junk e-mail); live chat harassment or flaming (online verbal abuse); leaving improper messages on message boards or in guest books; sending electronic viruses; sending unsolicited e-mail; and electronic identity theft.
Online stalking can be a terrifying experience for victims, placing them at risk for psychological trauma and possible physical harm. Cyberstalking shares important characteristics with offline stalking. Many stalkers - online or off - are motivated by a desire to exert control over their victims and engage in similar types of behavior to accomplish this end. In many documented cyberstalking cases, the cyberstalker and the victim had a prior relationship, and the cyberstalking began when the victim attempted to break off the relationship.
Many cyberstalking situations do evolve into off-line stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail, trespassing, and physical assault.
Experts suggest that in cases where the offender is known, victims should send the stalker a clear written warning. Specifically, victims should communicate that the contact is unwanted, and ask the perpetrator to cease sending communications of any kind. Then, no matter the response, victims should under no circumstances ever communicate with the stalker again.
As soon as you suspect you are experiencing online harassment or cyberstalking, start collecting all evidence and document all contact made by the stalker. Save all e-mail, postings, or other communications in both electronic and hard-copy form. Record the dates and times of any contact with the stalker. If the harassment continues, you may wish to file a complaint with the stalker's Internet service provider, as well as with you own service provider.
Finally, under no circumstances should victims agree to meet with the perpetrator face to face to "work it out," or "talk." No contact should ever be made with the stalker. Meeting a stalker in person can be very dangerous.
from - about.com