Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fake dating

Well, the New York Times has done it again. I'm quite certain that I should avoid sipping my coffee when I venture onto their Fashion and Style page. My computer would probably fail to operate, as the coffee would likely land on the keyboard in my shock.

So, what is it this time?

"Cloud Girlfriend" -- a new website that allows users to create a fake profile in order to find other people with fake profiles to begin a fake relationship, with the thought that perhaps the fake relationship could become real.

No, I'm not kidding.

From the story:

The new incarnation of the company raises interesting questions: Can two consciously misrepresented people flirt privately and rewardingly? And can that experience blossom into a relationship?

The online gaming world indicates there’s potential. Mr. Fuhriman has described the site’s current iteration as a combination of and Second Life, an online role-playing game wherein users create avatars — idealized selves — to navigate virtual worlds. Players in such games have fallen in love and even married.

Sarah Smith-Robbins, a professor at Indiana University specializing in social media, said that because avatars are highly customizable forms of self-expression, other players can infer things about the player’s true personality from them.

Relationships starting with total fabrication could succeed, she guessed, but perhaps not often in meaningful ways.

“It’s going to be the equivalent of a nightclub,” she said, adding, “Maybe you hit it off, and you go home together, but the next day it’s a completely different world.”

It looks like this new venture into online dating has completely missed the magic ingredient of a relationship -- two human persons. How can there possibly be a relationship in which two people are knowingly and willingly attempting to be someone else? But the website's promo video advises, "Feel free to be creative. Remember, you're creating the ultimate you."

There is inherent risk and vulnerability in a real life relationship. Difficult? Certainly. But to take this important ingredient out is to ensure that one's "relationship" will be meaningless, unfulfilling and ultimately degrading. Instead of a relationship that affirms the value of both people, this website can't help but enhance a lack of confidence in who one truly is. And if we can't find ourselves except in a sincere gift of ourselves, and if we can't give of ourselves unless we have an awareness of who we are and what we are giving, then how can a site like this be anything but a dead end street, walking us right into heartache, disappointment and futility?

The logic of "Cloud Girlfriend" is a far cry from the beauty of "Love and Responsibility," in which the future John Paul II ponders the dignity of the human person and how this inherent beauty and goodness can be best affirmed in a loving, chaste relationship. After all, a person can only be loved and never used as an object.

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