Romance :: Love at first byte – UWS book looks at romance in cyberspace

Sweaty palms hover over the mouse, butterflies flutter in the stomach as the email inbox opens. Despite the wealth of scepticism towards online dating, these are the very real symptoms of cyber romance.

For many people, the thought of a genuine romance blossoming in cyberspace is something to sneer at. The Internet is still largely viewed as a dark place, densely inhabited by the shy and socially inept.

A new book, ‘Cyberspace Romance,’ co-authored by two University of Western Sydney researchers, turns that theory on its head.

“The Internet offers a more playful space for would-be romantics than the offline world,” says Associate Professor Adrian Carr, one of the authors of the book and Principal Research Fellow in the School of Applied Social Sciences at UWS.

Associate Professor Carr co-wrote the book with former UWS lecturer, Monica Whitty, now a lecturer in Psychology at Queen’s University in Belfast.

“In the cyber-realm, where our physical attributes are not on show, it is our intellect, imagination and personality that are used to catch the attention of a potential partner. However, that does not mean that the Internet is an easy answer for the dating challenged,” says Associate Professor Carr.

“You still need the skill to recognise the non-verbal cues, and have enough knowledge of cyber etiquette to decode those smiley faces, winks and kisses that could mean someone is cyber flirting with you.”

And while cyberspace may seem to be a 21st Century platform for romantic encounters, the idea isn’t new, Associate Professor Carr says.

“There are many parallels with courtship in Victorian times, when the written word was the tool of romance and rules and suggestions for courtship were rigorously followed,” he says.

According to Associate Professor Carr, online social communication is an extension of traditional social behaviour, rather than a compensating medium. In cyberspace, we get to explore different aspects of our personality.

“We have attempted to provide people with a better appreciation of what online romance is about, how it works, why and what the etiquettes are so you can interpret people’s signs,” he says.

Despite the darker spaces some people may delve into, such as online predators and people with internet addictions, most people find online dating to be a refreshing experience, he says.

‘Cyberspace Romance’ is published in Australia by Palgrave Macmillan.

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