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“She began regaling me with descriptions of her expanding lingerie collection. In short, she was becoming her online personality.” Surfing was the new cruising, and it could change lives.
At the turn of the twentieth century, “tough girls,” “charity cunts,” and other early daters upset their parents and the police by taking a process that had always been conducted in private to the streets.Both were enticing despite being slightly dangerous. A cyberlover might say he was tall and strong when in fact he was short and skinny, or thin when she was fat. Back in the day, in your parents’ parlor, or at a church- or synagogue-sponsored dance, any other young person you met would have been screened in advance. The man who held your hand as you shuddered through the dark of the Tunnel of Love might be anyone.But daters soon discovered that the anonymity of being out in public offered its own kind of intimacy. You never had to see a girl you had picked up at the dance hall again.She ceased to be “a rather mousy person — the type who favored gray clothing of a conservative cut …She became (through the dint of her blazing typing speed) the kind of person that could keep a dozen or more online sessions of hot chat going at a time.” The effects carried over into real life.“When I first asked her about this, she initially put it down to ‘just fooling around on the wires.’” “It’s just a hobby,” she said.
“Maybe I’ll get some dates out of it.” Yet under the spell of her dirty-talking alter ego, the Naked Lady began to undergo a metamorphosis.
When my sister, searching for images of her favorite British pop stars, accidentally typed “Spicy Girls” into Yahoo, the search results made her run, shrieking, from the family computer. “It is probably no coincidence that this sea change comes on us at a time when AIDS lurks in the alleyways of our lives,” a writer for The Nation mused in 1993.
Months later, the New York Times reiterated the point.
Without family and friends hovering over you, you could be yourself and frankly express your feelings. Early on, mental health professionals started observing that meeting strangers online often had a similar effect.
The psychiatrist Esther Gwinnell decided to write a book about “computer love” after a string of patients came to her office reporting that they or their partners had fallen for a stranger online.
For the first time in history, dating let young people seek mates and life partners on their own behalf, in public places.