Online Seductions could be the perfect Valentine's Day gift, a sane guide to the relatively new world of online romance. A few years ago, Net romances made the evening news, usually accompanied by considerable hysteria about porn and predators. Thanks to the Net, strangers are falling in love all the time; cyber-romances so common some shrinks -- like the author of this book -- devote much of their practices to dealing with the fallout from them. How can you tell if it's the real thing? What are some danger signs? This paperback is cheaper than flowers, maybe more fun.
Falling in love with strangers on the Net poses a whole set of special problems, says Dr. Esther Gwinnell, author of Online Seductions. Her book takes a shockingly businesslike and useful look at cyber-romance, the unheralded killer app of the World Wide Web.
When technology and romance mix, the result is explosive, many of the participants in need of a good shrink. Usually, the subject is treated phobically -- predators, stalkers, porno-peddlers, even cyber sexual assaults. But as more Americans go online, it follows that more are finding their ways into chat rooms, IM's and video-confs and trying to seduce each other, digitally and literally.
Gwinnel, an Oregon therapist, and other shrinks, report growing numbers of marriages in trouble because one or even both spouses are having online affairs. In her practice many patients are encountering some kind of problems with Net relationships.
For instance, they tend to falling in love with someone they meet online while other relationships flounder.
Or they fall in love with people who don't return their affection. Or think they're in love, but they're not sure.
Sometimes, of course, things get really ugly. An online romance turns into a frightening or pathological relationship. Or somebody has a pseud or doesn't tell you it's a same-sex relationship. Or that they're much younger or much older than you are. Or life outside the Net gradually shrivels and shrinks for the lovestruck.
People drawn to long distance romance used to fall in love via the post office or on the telephone. The Net obviously permits strangers to find one another more easily, get to know one another better and faster, and in a variety of ways, from chat rooms to IRC to video encounters.
A number of people in Gwinnel's practice have met online, fallen in love and been happy together for ages. It isn't rare any longer. Others get disappointed by flamers, fakers, and stalkers, or by role-players who aren't looking for real relationships. Seduction online lends itself both to experimentation and misunderstandings, and to the complications anonymity can breed.
Gwinnell gives advice on how to protect yourself online: how to spot trouble, to figure out when you've gone too far or when someone is going too far with you.
Where she scores highly with me is that Gwinnell brings a sensible, even historical approach to the topic of seduction. The Net may be new, she writes, but the issues she writes about are not. People have been meeting and falling in love in odd and unconventional ways ever since people have been falling in love.
Online relationships are still considered odd, despite their exploding numbers. Sex, as educators, parents and pols talk about it, is such a scary taboo that little useful information has emerged about how people meet online and conduct their seductions and affairs.
Gwinnell warns to be careful about taking too much advice from online therapists, and even though some of her patients suffer from Net addiction and obsession, she believes that for the majority of people the benefits of seeking romance on the Net outweigh the dangers. "And for those who are seeking a romantic companion, the Internet offers many opportunities to make emotional connections outside of those that hitherto have been available," she writes.
She also asks some interesting questions: is computer sex "adultery?" (Yup. Being unfaithful hurts relationships, no matter where it's done).
This perspective is quite different from the stream of alarms about perverts, predators and porn online.
Falling in love with strangers isn't talked about in proper society much. But it may soon be one of the primary means by which people seeking romance meet for the first time.
You can purchase this book at Fatbrain.