In the New York Times op-ed, “Romance at Arm’s Length,” Daniel Jones, the editor of the paper’s “Modern Love” column observes a growing trend in romance, conducted only in I.V.L.
Among the more pronounced trends I have noticed in recent years is the rise of online-only relationships, a phenomenon I’ve begun to call Soul Mate in a Box.
A Soul Mate in a Box (Smiab, for short) is a person we rarely, if ever, meet and in some cases never speak to, but to whom we feel closer than anyone else. Maybe the relationship exists through instant messages or over e-mail or via Skype, FaceTime, and texting.
Perhaps Snapchat allows the couple to exchange racy pictures, adding a glimpse of sexuality, if not sex. One couple liked to view each other on Skype, but weren’t comfortable talking that way, so they’d instant-message instead, watching each other click away at the keyboard as they swooned.
That’s not new. But while in the past, the focus of online relationships was sexual intimacy that excluded emotion, in its newest incarnation, it’s on deep emotional intimacy that excluded sex.
If the hookups were about fire, these connections are about the soul. Yet, surprisingly, when the two people meet I.R.L., the magic melts. The failure rate of such relationships is incredibly high because:
One, they didn’t actually get to know each other so well. They only got to know what was served up, a two-dimensional collection of images, text and, for some, audio. Two, in this wondrous world of the Internet, we often find the object that’s far away to be more enticing than the one that’s nearby.