John Suler's The Psychology of Cyberspace
This article dated May 96

Transient and Long Term
Online Relationships

Some have criticized cyberspace as a realm of superficial and/or transient relationships. While these do indeed exist, they nevertheless form a cornerstone of the cyberspace experience and are therefore worthy of psychological investigation. What are the interpersonal dynamics of one-time only chat discussions, sporadic flame wars, sexual harassment, or brief cybersex encounters?

Even though transient relationships exist, there is no doubt that long-term friendships, romances, and marriages have resulted from online meetings. Because people have access to numerous people in cyberspace, a filtering process occurs in which a person narrows down (based on both conscious and unconscious motivations) the range of potential contacts - and then chooses someone with whom to develop a relationship. This it itself is a fascinating process and one worthy of psychological study. Once the relationship is underway, how do people negotiate emotional expression, intimacy, love, and conflict, especially given the limited experiential dimension of a text-only style of communicating? On the one hand, text-only communications restrict the experiential range by which people can express themselves, but at the same time the partial anonymity it offers also allows some people to disclose themselves more freely.

The fact people may be keeping a permanent record of much or all of their cyberspace relationships (as in email correspondence) offers a unique opportunity for research into how those relationships evolve.

See also in The Psychology of Cyberspace:

In-person versus cyberspace relationships
E-mail communication and relationships
Hypotheses about online text relationships
Transference among people online
Conflict in Cyberspace: How to resolve conflict online
Cyberspace romances

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