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An increasing number of 18-24 year olds are using dating apps and meeting partners online. It is a great way to meet new people, however research shows that without face-to-face contact there is a risk of users creating an imaginary or ‘perfect’ version of the other person. We spoke to Isha about her experiences…
In our generation, most relationships are formed online. Technology is the first point of call for us but a lot of young people get obsessive and almost neurotic about these online relationships. I have had friends who have had explosive relationships with people online where they just become really nasty and start sending horrible comments and putting up mean posts.
I was in a cycle recently where I really liked this boy and I used to spend all my time thinking about him and talking to him. I would never leave my phone because I was scared I would miss a text. I met him at an event and we got each other’s messengers and just started talking. It started off friendly and then got obsessive. I couldn’t think of anything else apart from messaging him or calling him. I starting not wanting to hang out with my friends as much or go out as much. I even found myself when I was buying clothes looking for the colours he liked. It was compulsive; I couldn’t break out of it. At the time, my friends got fed up with me and said I should delete all my social media just for a day. They said just give yourself a day to know that you are your own person.
An online relationship can really consume you. You aren’t seeing them and they’re not tangible. You just end up creating scenarios in your mind of what your relationship would be like and it becomes a cycle where you just start making them up. You forget about the real world. I forgot about my schoolwork. When I was working I was just looking at my phone waiting for a text to come through. We lived quite far away and we would always make future plans about what we would do together. You start making so many plans and when they don’t happen it makes you depressed and really sad. You are talking to this person and you feel it has the potential to develop into something really incredible but there is nothing progressing other than sending messages.
You start projecting your own insecurities and anxieties onto someone you don’t know. You are making them up as someone you would want and designing yourself as someone you want to be seen as. A lot of online relationships fail when you actually meet the person because you have created someone that doesn’t exist.
One of my friends is really careless with her number online. She will post it everywhere and then get random texts from people. There is something about online relationships that make you progress so much faster. Within three days she will get all these guys asking her for pictures or to meet for drinks then go back to their place. No one would do that within three days of meeting someone for the first time in real life. It is terrifying to know that online anything is acceptable and there seems to be no boundaries. Getting to know the boundaries is also a really big task because you can put yourself in a lot of danger. I didn’t feel too much fear meeting my guy because I had actually met him so I knew he was a real person and not someone pretending to be someone else. It is a real fear when you’re young that you could be talking to someone that isn’t who they say they are. Some of my friends do meet people that they have only met online. Almost every time they do turn out to be the person they thought they were but sometimes they get stood up and end up on their own in places they don’t know. It’s scary that you could meet someone that you have only been talking to for two days through something like social media.
When I was in this online cycle with this guy it really affected what I posted. I wanted my Instagram to be the best pictures I could find, the best poses. If other people ever tagged me in something I would always have to check up on it. Eventually I put the security thing on my Facebook so I could approve other people’s tags in case I didn’t like a picture. It was so weird. It was weird I wasn’t being me I was being someone I thought he would like. You don’t even know if the person will like the person you are projecting you kind of just make it up based on what they have said. It made me feel really cautious. I was always scared someone would put up a photo of me I didn’t like or I would worry that when I met him I wouldn’t have clothes he would find attractive. I found myself changing my style to be more girly.
I was quite lucky because he never asked for nudes from me. I would have felt really uncomfortable but I also think that because I had become so invested in it that I might have actually sent them. I think there is something really exiting about online relationships; there is so much mystery. It is almost like an adventure. It is the idea of having someone who has a genuine interest in you online.
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