In Henry Jenkins article “Love Online,” he describes his fifteen-year-old son’s online relationship with his girlfriend, Sarah. Jenkins claims his article is not a story about virtual relationships, but I found this hard to believe. He opens his article by telling readers he accompanied his son from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Omaha, Nebraska so his son, also named Henry, could meet his girlfriend face-to-face for the first time.
Jenkins has a positive portrayal of the online world of love. He points out that while there were “slim pickings” at Henry’s school, the world of cyberspace provided his son with a larger pool of possibilities. The digital world also allowed his son to record the beginning of his relationship as he backlogged chat discussions he had with Sarah.
Henry and Sarah first met in an online discussion group and had to practice good communication skills to maintain a long distance relationship. Such long-distance communications were also necessary for Henry’s great grandparents when they were forced to send letters to each other during the First World War. This comparison seems a little far-fetched, however. Henry’s great grandparents were forced to communicate long-distance after they had already met each other and fallen in love. Henry and Sarah’s relationship began as a form of long-distance communication as they had never even seen each other in person.
This form of “online love” immediately made me think of dating sites like eharmony and match.com. I have always been skeptical of these websites and find myself bothered by the handful of commercials that advertise these dating websites. Am I the only one who doesn’t believe those happy couples who claim they finally found love through the Internet? It’s not that I don’t believe the Internet doesn’t produce lasting and serious relationships. In fact, one of my friends from high school met his current girlfriend through Facebook. She lived in Sweden and messaged my friend after she saw him on the MTV show “Made.” At the same time, I feel like the Internet is an unreliable and unnatural source for relationships. I would never be able to get over the potential risk the Internet poses. How do the people using these websites know for certainty whether their date on the other end of the computer is in fact who they say they are? Call me old-fashioned, but I could never imagine flying my child half way across the country so he or she could meet their online crush.
Putting my skepticism about “online love” to the side, maybe it’s time I realize that the Internet has become a very plausible and acceptable for way for people to form relationships. Or perhaps, there are others like me, who still find this process very strange.