Are online relationships really second best?

Are Online Relationships Really Second Best?

Have you seen the 2013 movie Her?

It’s a touching romance starring Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a writer who falls in love with Samantha, an intelligent operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

As we watch, we follow Theodore and Samantha through an intense period of getting to know each other, of consummating their relationship, and of socialising with friends.

High-tech, ordinary love

The most surprising thing about this movie is the ordinariness of Samantha and Theodore’s love.

They’re like any couple having a long-distance relationship. Sure, she’s an operating system (and this eventually causes problems), but their connection is all the stronger because of her disembodied nature.

At Loose Ends, Her is one of our favourite films. And it’s a provocative one.

Online relationships are often thought of as second best in our society, but whenever we watch Her, we wonder whether we’re wrong to think this way.

Better than the real thing…

Let’s play devil’s advocate. Here are some of the ways we think online relationships trump real-world ones. And we’re not just talking about romantic relationships, either.

  • They transcend time and place. Most of us have limited chances to meet people outside of our everyday worldOnline relationship, but the internet makes it easy. And while it’s possible to chat online in real time or talk face to face, email, messaging and forums help us connect across time zones.
  • They help us put our best foot forward. Although the online social world is notorious for being aggressive, we think it works the other way as well. Online friends tend to get the best version of us, because we usually only connect when we’re ready and willing.
  • They rise above the limitations of the body. Beauty may be more than skin deep, but it can be a challenge to get past first impressions in the real world. And technology can help you have an active social life when it’s hard to communicate in person.

…or second best?

That’s an impressive list of points in favour of relating online. Here’s the view from the other side.

  • The reality gap makes it hard for you to be sure that your online friends are really the people you take them to be. In real life we don’t interact with people in isolation. We get to know them in context, through seeing them hang out in their own social circle. This is hard to do with virtual relationships.
  • You can’t touch an online friend. We think this is the biggest disadvantage with virtual relationships, because sometimes you just need to be around real live flesh and blood people. The day your online pal can get the lid off a pickle jar for you will be the day of ultimate victory for the cyber-relationship.

A happy medium

Even if you’re sceptical about the value of online relationships, there’s reason to believe they’re a good thing.

Evidence suggests that couples who meet online stay together longer, and are happier than those who first get together in the real world.

We’re also convinced technology plays an important part in making relationships richer.

You might not want to phone or email your old university buddies every day, but giving them a like on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter helps you share micro-moments of quality time.

So what’s our conclusion? We think online relationships are great, but work best of all when they’re combined with real-world contact.

Theodore and Samantha couldn’t do this in the movie, but you certainly can. Just download the Loose Ends app, connect to your Facebook friends, and you’re good to go.

But don’t forget to let us know your views on real-world vs online relationships. We’re all ears.

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