The "Impossible" Romance
Creating Possibilities: Part One
One statistic was the most surprising from the narratives. Of all the respondents who were still in the relationship that began in an MMO, 60% of them indicated that they didn't think the relationship would have happened in a F2F context, even had they met. Another 18% were not sure. Only 22% were somewhat certain that the relationship would have happened F2F. Thus, one very intriguing theme that emerged in the narratives was the notion that these virtual worlds had made it possible for otherwise "impossible relationships" to happen. By this, some referred back to the geographic separation, but many respondents suggested that their relationship would not have occurred F2F even if they had met each other. Respondents described two kinds of "impossible relationships" that were made possible by virtual worlds.
The first kind of "impossible relationship" revolves around shyness. As I read through the narratives, it surprised me how often respondents described, without any prompting from the questions, either their own shyness or their partner's shyness.
My now-husband was very shy, but obviously a very sweet guy. [WoW, F, 30]
I find myself to be a very shy and introverted person in real life …Due to my social personality, most women had overlooked me as shy, not confident or any of my other redeeming qualities. [WoW, M, 25]
I have a easier time in opening myself up to others online, since I'm usually too scared to talk to new people in real life. [ROSE, F, 16]
About 25% of all respondents mentioned shyness somewhere in their narratives, either in describing themselves, their romantic partners, or both. Of course, it's not clear whether this percentage is higher or lower than online gamers, video gamers, or the population in general. On the other hand, it makes it easy to understand why a non-trivial number of respondents felt that their shyness or their partner's shyness would have prevented the relationship from ever happening even had they met in real life.
Since we are both shy, we probably would not have talked in real life.. then again, I've always liked the cute shy ones, so who knows.. ;) [EQ2, F, 20]
He is shy and very reserved and I do think he would let the opportunity pass him by. It is sad to admit that, but it is the truth. [WoW, F, 29]
If I had met her in RL first neither of us would've stepped up to make the first move due to our shyness. [FlyFF, M, 38]
We are both shy and introverted people, so if we had met each other in real life first, we probably wouldn't have been brave enough to reveal ourselves as honestly as we did online. [FlyFF, F, 21]
I would probably have oogled him and he would have oogled me and nothing would have happened ... [WoW, F, 33]
These narratives show that virtual worlds can enable the formation of relationships that would otherwise have been considered impossible F2F, even though the two people are actually highly compatible and can develop a significant romantic bond. The confidence that people can acquire online due to anonymity, something that has been critiqued as leading to superficiality, can in fact have very real and positive consequences for some people.
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