The Thin Line Between Virtual and Real Relationships

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Most people nowadays have Whatsapp buddies, people who you chat freely with about your life and issues, without actually having to meet them in real life.

Sometimes, they even know more about you than your close friends and family… They can accurately gauge the mood and need, and provide necessary words of comfort and encouragement.

This is similar to what used to happen years ago in airplanes, when we didn’t carry along our laptops and tablets to watch movies… The person on the next seat shared their entire life story, safe in the knowledge that they may never meet the person again.

Which brings me to the real purpose of this blog — What makes virtual relationships so real, and why are anonymous relationships actively sought?

Are we filling voids in our existing real-life relationships, or are we simply seeking safe refuge?

A space to open up and share with a person, knowing he may not judge you or expect anything of you, but still someone you can lean on — at least virtually — to make sense of your world.

While we seek these safe virtual listening boards, how do the real relationships suffer, or get enhanced?

Also, why have they stopped measuring up to our expectations, or lack thereof…and why have they failed to provide the support we seek elsewhere?

Is it judgement and lack of honesty that holds people back? Or, is it a lack of patience to be understood — or misunderstood — by those ‘who should already know you well enough’?

We take real relationships for granted, because we expect them to have reached a certain level of evolution.

We expect the other person to simply understand us, without having to communicate much… We may not be patient enough to accurately communicate what we need, but we still blame the other for lack of understanding.

Ironically, we don’t hesitate to display that same level of patience — even more at times — when communicating virtually to a person who may not have any direct impact, or consequence, in our lives.

Of course, the person may temporarily help you cope with your life, and you with theirs…but it is a virtual relationship at the end of the day!

The patience in virtual relationships probably arises from the fact that you now have a safety screen with which to operate. The person on the other end is physically absent, and for all practical reasons will remain so.

This gives you the freedom to share without fear, and to be who you are without the impositions of any real-life roles, that can over a period of time become both stressful and mundane.

Virtual relationships also have no responsibilities attached to them, you can simply block and delete the person when you wish to, unlike something you can do in real life.

But then one of the biggest questions that arises is— Are virtual relationships any less real?

Because the person on the other end is, in fact, a real person, bringing with him or her a full range of emotions and experiences, and a sensitivity that you can only sense and test with your words.

I’ve chatted with several people, who I’ve met and not met, on Whatsapp… Some have become dear friends who I can look to for any sort of advice, some share with me the odd joke, meaningful quotes from books, or encouraging videos, that keep me going in low moments.

I’ve personally never understood what to make of these relationships, or what to expect of them… But they are an important part of my reality, and so I often try to decode their place in my life, and how they should progress, if at all they should.

Maybe it’s best that the virtual world remains virtual, maybe the virtual will some day become the real world…

Maybe the real world is in fact a virtual one — with technology connecting us to minds and hearts we never thought we would have access to.

And then, when have relationships ever been easy to understand — virtual or real… They’ve always been messy and beautiful, finished but still unfinished, binding and freeing.

The virtual world, and the relationships formed therein, are nothing but an extension of the same human malaise we’ve been victims of from time immemorial…

Man is indeed a social animal, and he will always seek companionship, comfort, and care… Just this time, it may come to us in different forms and from different places.

A good way of handling virtual relationships is not to get too entangled in them, and to stay as objective as possible. A better way, is to use the perspectives gained from these relationships to enrich our real life ones…

People bring with them diverse ideas and thoughts, and these could be applied meaningfully to your life.

Finally, be it real or virtual, one needs to deal with all relationships with awareness and honesty… When we can bring these two qualities into our relationships — be it virtual or real — our relationships will only support and enhance our individual growth and self-realisation.

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