Are relationships becoming shallower online?

If you’re reading my post you’re a denizen of the online world just like me. C’mon, there’s no denying it. [insert smiley face here]

We’re all here. There are those of us who are writing things online. Others are reading us. Many of us spend hours on social media connecting and reconnecting with friends. Yet others spend time here learning, informing themselves, mis-informing themselves, finding partners, finding their way, playing games, snooping on people and doing pretty much most of the functions we could perform in the good ol’ real world.

My last post on writing and online experience talked about how the stories we tell might be changing because of a changed topography of feelings and experiences due to our new encounter with the digital social world. It triggered several comments where people expressed the opinion that our relationships have become shallower and perhaps less meaningful because of our online interactions. This was rather surprising to me considering the nature of the forum we were interacting on.

tjtherien, for example,  suggests that romance is shallower, “cheating is also  easier and temptation is a click of the mouse away.” billgncs says that “email and instant media robs us of the chance to suffer gloriously in anticipation” and kinfauns2 is eloquent about the loss of waiting for a message from our beloved: “As Wordsworth so hopefully insisted, I hope we receive “abundant recompense” for the glorious agony of time (waiting for love letters, etc.) and all the other things we’ve lost through technology.”

It is true that the internet has posed challenges to our relationships or at least to the traditional ways in which we were used to living them. On the one hand it has opened up infinite possibilities for connections and yet on the other hand it has set us up for disappointment by frustrating our very optimism about those innumerable possibilities.

The number of people inhabiting the ‘net seems infinite. Yet, is it the fault of this online social world that we did not find a brand new world out there as we had hoped but alas the same ol’ world with the same old people–a world full of cheats and frauds and people out to get you.

Love (Photo credit:

For example, browsing an infinite number of dating profiles online might provide the illusion that the number of singles out there are hundreds of thousands but in reality the same number of singles exist in the real world. No matter how many there are, the number of mental matches have  a possibility of remaining as disappointingly the same as the real world and while one’s reach widens one’s competition increases too because of all those others with an equal shot at the game.

It is true that anyone can concoct a story about themselves online and no one will know. Cheating and misrepresentation have new ways of expression now. We can be who we want online. But wasn’t it the same before? Didn’t we have those stories before where a young man would come to town and the heroine would fall in love with him and then it would turn out that his name was fake or that he was already betrothed to someone else. (Jane Austen?)

I know that the internet has opened up new challenges. Yet, it is also true that there is a common tendency to feel the flaws in the current age more acutely than those in ages past. For every identity-less person we encounter on the net, it is possible to find out that much more about others simply by googling them. For every shallow encounter online, it is possible to find a deeper exchange somewhere it wouldn’t have been possible to reach before.

Perhaps relationships will change their local habitation and their name but I am optimistic that they will retain their depth.

17 thoughts on “Are relationships becoming shallower online?”

  1. Hi, I was just thinking about writing a similar post, but about Facebook relationships and how everyone is talking but nobody is actually listening. Anyway. I like your blog so I’ve also nominated you for a Liebster award. For more details you can check my page. I’m all about positivity!


  2. Great article! I have been on the dating sites a few times over the past many years, but generally only last about 8 hours becausebof the overwhelm of politely responding. It is a good way to meet people that may otherwise never cross our paths. Good luck out there 🙂


  3. Interesting. Virtual relationships.
    Thanks for stopping by to like my post When Stars Cross. It is a minified version of my novella Magnificent Loss published by Indireads.


  4. I met my husband on an internet dating site and we are a perfect match. I have found from past experience and talks with others is that one drawback to meeting a partner online is that while there may be a meeting of minds it is later found that good ol’ chemistry is missing, this can be a negative in that they are physically missmatched or a positive because raging hormones do not cloud judgement. On a different note, yesterday I experienced the nastiness of online discourse, when people feel safe behind their keyboards they can be horribly rude and offensive, hiding behind psudonoms. I read an article on an online newspaper and took exception to many comments posted wishing death on a person (a petty criminal). I responded with a comment, went away had a think and then posted a blog post which I linked to back to the comments section. The pack with their bloodlust then turned on me with shattering venom. In the real world those people would never have the nerve to be as rude as they were in that forum.


  5. I think it can be summed up this way: We live in a world of “and.” The world is this…AND it is that. I am This…AND I am also That…whatever ‘this and that’ might be. Life is complex, not black and white. I like it that way.


    Linda Joyce


  6. I think that the internet has changed the dynamics of human interaction, but it doesn’t change who humans are at the root, so of course we’ll see the same kinds of stories. The internet may have opened up different kinds of avenues for people to cheat, but people were always cheating.

    Maybe relationships are more shallow and based on a lie now, but wasn’t arranged marriage something like that in history also? I think it’s all a matter of perspective.


  7. Reblogged this on Melody Balthaser and commented:
    I really enjoy the writing of and a good point is presented here. I wanted to share. I would only add that a lack of depth is an epidemic in every area of our lives, not just in social media/internet. The boroad-spectrum cure is for all of us to SLOW DOWN and live in the moment. Stop rushing around and simplify our lives! It’s like a waterskier skimming the water at high speed. When the boat slows down the skier looses the capacity to just skim the surface of the lake and begins to sink. When he let’s go of the tow rope, he is left quietly bobbing on the waves. Ahhh.


  8. It is quite difficult if not impossible to have a relationship of depth with all of our “online friends”. The number of good and close friends/relationships we have is usually limited in real world, after all we cannot keep up with 100s of good people we’ve met over the course of our lives all the time. Social networks and online platforms do give us a chance to keep in touch with all those nice people we want to be acquainted with. It also gives us a chance to find new people with similar interests. However, to find a real relationship online is difficult because we do not get to analyze and perceive basic human behavior in an online world. People we meet online might be “profoundly honest” as stated by Frank or completely superficial. In my opinion, there should be less expectations from relationships in real world and more caution in relationships in the online world. Hence there is not a black and white answer for this.


    1. True. Although I often wonder whether kids who are growing up with the online social world amongst them might not have a different perception of depth and of online relationships.


  9. Our ability to find others of like mind has certainly expanded – for good and ill. Struggling authors can connect across the world and support each other – but so can terrorists. Who we are online and who we are in the real world may be different: we are far less inhibited, and can be who we want to be, explore facets of ourselves that we would never dare to in the flesh. Relationships online can therefore be profoundly honest in safe anonymity; taking these to the real world is… messy.


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