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Location: United Kingdom

Some people know me as OrangeBlossomer because that's me on Twitter. This blog is a random collection of daily musings about life and stuff I love, such as journalism, dog (sadly my dog died in 2010 so probably no more), women, love and lack of love, boobs (only seldom but it does get me extra online traffic), taichi (I practise) and spirituality (should practise more). I have a day job as a jetsetting publishing foreign rights manager but I am also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and a writer/columnist at heart. Writing is my opium.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Cyberlove: the future of love on the internet

The Guardian Weekend Magazine published an interesting compilation of stories last week (The way we love now, 30.06.12) of couples who started their relationship online.

This is the 21st century. Relationships that start on social media sites are no longer a novelty. Among my Facebook "friends", at least two whom I have never personally met, met their other halves on MySpace, before Facebook became mainstream. Several friends of friends got married to people they met on dating sites. In fact my husband and I also met online, although, being old-fashioned, admitting it always makes me feel terribly awkward.

Cyberspace is the new clubbing scene. Cyberlove's in the air. Everyone's doing it.

Love in Second Life
Of all stories in the Guardian article, one caught my attention: the story of the couple who met in Second Life – as avatars. 

In real life, each already had a partner with whom they were not happy with. In the virtual world, they bought a land, built a house (using real money), moved in together, then he proposed. They got to know each other so intimately in Second Life, by the time they actually met in person, they were already in love and their real-life appearances didn't seem to matter. The rest is history. Staying true to their parallel lives, they got married first in Second Life, then, a year later, in real life. 

Four years and two children later, they sit in the same room and their avatars, now slightly changed in appearance, still meet in Second Life. Is this creepy? Is it sweet and innocent? Is this the new 'way we love'?

I have never immersed myself in Second Life but have seen a number of demos and videos. I know, for example, it is possible for couples to have a baby virtually. Honest to God. The boss of someone I know, who has recently had her second child, met and gave birth to one in Second Life with the man who is now her real-life husband and father of her children.

What is frightening about an immersive world like Second Life is that, unlike in Facebook and Twitter, you can acquire a new identity with a name and apperance that has nothing to do with who you actually are. You are, in effect, playing make-believe and the make-believe can sometimes spill out into the real world. Scary but tantalising.

I can relate to that. I grew up as a super-introverted, isolated child, who had far more friends in make-believe world than in real life. I can understand the attraction, the freedom that a virtual world encounter in a make-believe body can give you.

Mummy Porn
To me part of reason people pursue cyber-relationships links in with why erotica  is currently booming in the publishing industry led by the success of E L James' Fifty Shades of Grey, the novel with kinky sex everyone can't stop talking about.

Sales figures of the trilogy has surpassed the 10 million mark and made the expression "mummy porn" trend. Fifty Shades of Grey has also had some terrible reviews saying the book could not be less erotic if it tried, but women continue to buy it, either to find out what the hype is all about, or perhaps because they, to borrow the famous line from When Harry Met Sally, want to "have what she's having".  It could be a PR stunt, but stories abound of women claiming the novel spiced up their sex lives; one woman even wrote to the author saying she became pregnant as a result of reading her book.

The point is fantasy arouses women. Whereas men are turned on by visual clues, for women sex starts in the brain. Their minds need to be turned on before the body follows suit. Nothing better than a bit of erotic fantasy then to get the imagination going. The bondage and submission scenes in EL James' book may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is good escapism; it is irrelevant that the reader would never dream of using any "Ann Summers accoutrements" in real life, as Suzanne Moore cleverly put it in this column; to live the unimaginable in one's fantasy can still be a turn-on.

Out of curiosity, I googled whether it is possible for couples to have cybersex in Second Life and discovered this amusing guide to "getting started with sex in Second Life". Apparently avatars can take off their clothes, purchase genitalia and other body parts at the "Xcite store" to kit out their bodies, even have orgasms, but there can be awkward technical difficulties in manipulating the act itself. The whole idea sounds rather laughable and offputting but it may just be because I haven't got into the "spirit" of Second Life.

Starting early
If you thought befriending avatars in virtual environments was only for naughty adults, I would like to remind you that Moshi Monsters, Mind Candy's virtual world for 6 to 12-year-olds, currently boasts more than 50 million users. That means 50 million children (well, let's assume they are mosty children) are adopting a pet monster, or moshling, as an avatar, making friends with other monsters, paying for things in virtual money, playing virtual games.

The future
It cannot be that far-fetched then to think that the moshling avatar user of today may become inhabitants of Second Life tomorrow. In 20 years' time, we may all have more 'friends' online than in real life; we may be juggling real and virtual lovers.

While old schoolers will still be obsessing about their privacy settings on Facebook, the generation who grew up communicating through instant messaging and Facebook walls, casually dipping in and out of virtual environments, those young people may be setting new rules for cybercourtship, redefining concepts of loyalty.

Relationship boundaries may shift. Will we have a revival of sorts of the hippie movement of the 60s, or will virtual couples live by the same societal rules as in real life?

The future of love sounds promisingly titillating.

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Anonymous Filipino girls said...

It may be so impossible but i have a very big belief in love in second life. maybe time didn't allow two people will live together on earth but i know that god will let them meet on second life . Nice post !!

22 August 2012 at 08:41  

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