Love With a Paper Trail
Reviewing Double Click: Romance and Commitment Among Online Couples
Book: Double Click | Author: Andrea J. Baker
Cities: Seattle, Vancouver -- Dates: 25 to 30 July 2005
One Paragraph Review
Happiness does not sell soap. This is why the news so frequently shows the monstrous decay of society, regardless of how real it might be. So too has been the coverage of online relationships. Andrea Baker finds that people who participate in online relationships are not desperate, lonely, ugly, sex addicts and child molesters; despite common depictions. Baker interviewed and tracked 89 couples that met online and started a relationship. Some of these failed, others did not. The participants filled out her extensive two part survey and gave her a tremendous store of first-hand information. Imagine what a great day it is for a sociologist to find a love affair with a fully time-stamped paper trail! The study finds that online partners find each other in social settings, talk and grow their relationship in private, encounter obstacles, overcome some of them, and make decisions about their futures. The major finding here is that there are considerable and demonstrable benefits to a relationship which starts online. Perhaps some counselors should take note.
Authors/Editors: Andrea J. Baker
Source: Hampton Press
Publication: Book / Non-Fiction / Sociology
Publication Date: 2005
URL: Buy this Book!
Keywords: romance, relationships, online communities, commitment,
Disciplines: sociology, internet
- Communication is the bedrock of any well built relationship
- Online couples tend to devalue physical attractiveness more than non-wired couples
- Online relationships allow for slower development and greater interpersonal scrutiny
- Online relationships succeed and fail on their merits
- The online location, obstacles to growth, personal presentation and timing all directly impact the ultimate success of an on-line relationship
One Sentence Summary
Online relationships succeed or fail, just like their traditional counterparts; but they tend to value depth of personal understanding and compatibility over physical attractiveness and aesthetics which leads to some very different developmental dynamics.
One Page Review
Nearly 100 couples helped Andrea Baker write a nifty book about online relationships. Her research shows that there are a lot of healthy relationships that started on line. These people didn’t all meet through a dating service or even with the intent to meet. Some did, of course, but either way, it was humans being humans and finding each other.
This is an academic book. While it relies extensively on the descriptions of online relationships, the book is fairly well grounded. The only real academic shortcoming is noted by Baker and that regards the nature of her sample. The sample is more than adequate to note a variety of trends.
In the end, these trends come down to communication. Communication should be central to any relationship, but online it is pretty much the entire relationship. Therefore things like honesty, compatibility, thoughtful presentation, and listening are key to having a successful online relationship.
These are not often valued in the world of flesh however. And this is probably a key difference between traditional relationships and online ones. In an online world, people tend to be more open, less shy, and willing to take more chances. Online rejection, while not fun, doesn’t carry the same weight as having someone look you in the eye and say “No thanks.”
While one might assume that this is an affliction for the unattractive, it is not solely so. Baker has at least one couple in her sample that felt that people weren’t interested in them offline for anything other than their good looks. They wanted something deeper.
Another couple backed this up, and exemplifies the complexity of human relations, when they met at a 5 star hotel. The woman was not upset that the man physically looked different than she had hoped. She was, however, a bit put off by the fact that he didn’t dress appropriately for a 5 star hotel!
Baker provides a general framework for online relationship success that she calls the POST model.
- Place – where they met online (a community, a dating service, a game, etc.)
- Obstacles – various things that stood in the way of them meeting in real life
- Self-presentation – you are what you type
- Timing– how long does the non-physical relationship develop before the physical
What’s interesting is that these online relationships may be seen as enlightened courting. By default, sexuality is deferred until, at the very least, you can actually touch each other. The people in these relationships generally scrutinize the relationship a little more thoughtfully.
Baker benefits from a set of courtships and love affairs that come with massive paper trails. In addition to questionnaires and interviews, she also has emails, chat logs, and other supporting evidence. This provides a rich dataset.
I think that most relationship counselors and family therapists should read this and someone should devise cybertherapy. Couples would be separated for a few weeks and have to communicate via written media. To focus on the words and not the voice. To focus on the ideas and not the delivery.
Or maybe I shouldn’t have said that and I should get some funding for eTherapy.com.
A bit of follow up, I had a chance to talk about Andee's book on a pier sticking out into the Pacific Ocean last weekend. My wife and I went down to Ocean Shores, Washington, where we are building an investment home. We wanted to check out the amenities and were driving around the little town. There was a small sign that said "Live Crab for sale - on the dock today 11 to 4". So we went out to take a look.
The crabs were great ... very lively in very clean water, right out of the traps. I started speaking to the people there. The woman was Seattle, her husband was from Ocean shores. They met on-line and as they spoke animatedly about their on-line courtship, many of Andee's findings were evident. They were non-picture traders who insisted to get to know the person before the looks. They had a rapid flesh-courtship after a long cyber-courtship.
I told them about Andee's book and what she found. It shows the reach of the internet and how pervasive Online coupledom actually is.