Being a romance writer the subject of love comes up often in my circle. Usually not spurred on by me, but that’s another story. Today’s conversation had to do with loving someone you have never met, and if it’s even possible. The conversation was based around falling in love over the net, but it applies to all scenarios where one can fall in love without ever having actually met the other person: letters, private messages, email, tweets, posts… for example.
The group of us seems to be much divided on whether or not it’s possible to fall in love over the internet. I was thinking about this on my ridiculously long drive home today and am truly torn on the subject.
Let me first say that the subject of love in general is such a colossal idea that I wouldn’t even begin to tell you I understand it. Yes, I know I write about it, but in small fragments and sections. I write about pieces of love that exist in a word I created.
Mostly I write about the dark parts of people, the ugly, broken sides we try to hide from the world; what it’s like to love with scars and loving those who have them. Writing about love and relationships in that context is like looking at a single speck of dust floating in a galaxy.
So now that we have established that I don’t know jack shit about love, let’s get back to the subject at hand. Can you fall in love with someone you have never met?
I can come up with two arguments on this. One – and the more pessimistic side of me leans this way- you’re not falling in love with a person, just the idea of them. When I interact with someone new online I form an idea, if only rough, of who they are. More accurately, who I think they are. I take their, tweets, posts, words –whatever- and start to paint a mental picture of what they’re like. I give them characteristics like funny, smart, witty, kind, any number of ways you can describe a person.
The more I really think about it, however, it is their words I am assigning characteristics to. Not them. This would beg the question, are we our words? That is a rabbit hole I’m not diving down right now, but a great topic for debate, later.
So, I know a guy. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but really I know a guy. This guy spent a very long time in prison; most of my life, actually. During his extended stay in one of our fine penal facilities, he found love. Awe how sweet.
Through a series of events he started writing a woman he had never met. They wrote for the better part of a decade before he was released, recently. When he was released they got married after spending a week together and then he moved in with her. I read a post from her not so long ago that said, “I thought you were my knight in shining armor. Turns out you’re an asshole in tinfoil.” Well said, lady.
I can only assume she was ranting about that guy I know. I think this is a perfect example of what I mean about falling in love with the idea of someone. She formed an idea of who he was based on the words he wrote her. Apparently the idea she had was a shiny knight.
I’m projecting here- When he moved in and didn’t smile as often as she imagined he would, didn’t use all those polite words he had written when he spoke to her, when he showed the flaws we all have but don’t present in written form, she saw something less than her imaginary knight, like tinfoil.
So the other side of me, we’ll call it the smaller side, would argue this: Falling in love with someone via written words that you’ve never met, is falling in love with the purest form of a person. Yes, that sounded more than a little idealistic and philosophical, but hang in here with me.
I will be the first to tell you that physical attraction is important. A man with a beautiful mouth does funny things to my heart. (Unimportant side note) I very much believe that the small things a person does – the way they grin when you compliment them or how they always let you walk through a door first – are things to be adored and loved. They can, however, also be the things that get in the way of actually seeing someone.
I know from my own long term relationships that there are times when all you see are those things, the small ticks that annoy you. It doesn’t take a long term relationship to stop seeing who a person is past what you find irritating about them.
I had a professor in college whose class I hated going to because he flailed his arms like a fish without water when he lectured. I found it so distracting that I couldn’t concentrate. But we are not our ticks. That professor was not his flailing arms. I’m not my tattoos and piercings, though I know plenty of people who dislike them. My daughter is not the annoying way she pops her gum. My brother is not the stupid voice he makes when he tries to impersonate me (poorly).
Getting to know someone by letter or internet interactions gives you the ability to know them apart from physical form. When all you have is a person’s words and thoughts, their ideas and feelings, you have who they are outside of what you see and the things they do. Who we are at our purest form, maybe?
Okay, so I did nothing to help answer the question of whether or not you can really fall in love with someone you don’t know. I’m just as torn on the subject now after making both arguments as I was driving home.
I know that I get happy when I see certain people in my Twitter or Facebook feeds, and I couldn’t begin to tell you why, considering I don’t actually know them. No, that’s not love. Not even close but I can’t help but wonder if for some people those unexplainable moments of happiness is how it starts.
Maybe it’s that there really isn’t one answer? Love is different for everyone, certainly, and that is the only thing I am certain of when it comes to love. So whether you love the idea of someone, or the purest form of who they are, I say if it’s making you happy go for it. Life isn’t long enough to deny yourself the people that make you happy or improve how you feel in some way.
May B.B. (The, I love him, I love him not, Writer)