Friday Firesmith – The Internet is a Small Town

The thing about living in a small town is it’s impossible to escape the past. Dating someone you’ve known all your life is fraught for you know the break up will be public, and you’ll run into that person time and again. They know it, too, so there has to be some sort of understanding from the beginning all wars end in peace.

Yet even given that, sides will be taken by friends, her friends, his friends, instead of our friends, for in the break up there were things said, or did, that might make one person or another decide there’s a right and wrong.  It’s like dating in high school all over again, with a much older audience.

The internet made breaking up easier, less public, and with the ability to block a person from your social media you might be rid of them forever, even if that was not what you were looking for. Gone are the chance encounters in the parking lot of the one grocery store where both parties would like to have a neutral ground in which to bury the past, or at least have sex with someone safe and known for a  night.

Of course, break ups and permanent we’re- not- speaking- anymore does happen in real life, and the term real life in and of itself suggests that relationships on the internet aren’t real and aren’t live. In a sense, this is true, yet we seem to have eased into the cultural acceptance that once wasn’t there. You rarely here, “Oh, is it one of those internet things?” spoken with the contempt it once held.

The truth is relationships are difficult enough, and every social situation brings with it innate minefields, hard terrain, and an ever flowing current, either fast or slow, that constantly threatens to push, or pull, two people away from one another.

Back in high school, where most people experienced their first date, there’s usually mutual friends, but there is also competition for attention, cheating, poaching, and innocence isn’t lost during sex, it’s lost in dealing with interpersonal relationships where lust, spite, boredom, and simple inexperience leads to betrayal and the death of trust.

The internet has proven to be a land of the faithless as well, for someone who might have been considered a good and trusted friend is actually interested in your significant other. Any fight or break up is seen as an opportunity, and a friendship once thought strong, is lost forever. The person you thought of as close you now see as accursed and evil.

At the end of all discussions, even this one, internet dating only has distance as its biggest difference than dating someone in high school in a town with a population of under a thousand.  Everything found in every relationship in one culture is likely discovered in another, taken nuance away. Or perhaps it is always, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

Have you ever had a internet romance? What happened, and why? 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

12 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – The Internet is a Small Town”

  1. I grew up in a small town, 1200 hundred people. The county had around 2500 folks and it was roughly 900 square miles. Had to go 30 miles to eat at the McDonalds. A basic Mall was 150 miles away, a really nice one was 200.

    I was so glad to leave.

    Everyone knows everything about each other. And what wasn’t known usually ended up in the local weekly paper.

  2. This is an interesting topic to me as I don’t do social media, but have occasionally wondered about people whose social life seems to be entirely wrapped around it.
    20 years on a message board brought me people I came to know a lot about and considered friends. I avoided talking about those people with real life friends because of the awkward looks/comments like I was talking about a comic book character.
    Right now, for the first time in my life, I’m madly in love with the most beautiful (inside and out) woman in the world. We’ve never met and since she lives 3000 miles away probably never will. We communicate near daily and she’s aware I’m crazy but accepts it. What more could I ask.

  3. I’ve never had an online romance.I don’t let myself get caught up in those. I’m unlucky enough in real life. Any time I ever met someone who seemed too good to be true, they always were, there was something wrong. They were married, they were engaged, they were psycho, always something. I figure my chances online would be about the same.
    My son met my daughter-in-law through a dating app. Here they are, two kids and a mortgage later. It just doesn’t seem to be something for me.

  4. Chick, try this: The next time you go out to the store or run and errand, something like that, look around for white cars. The number of white cars are not going to increase because you’re counting them, but you’ll notice nothing but white cars. That seems to be the way you look at relationships. You’re counting on them going bad.

  5. I have done essentially virtual dating–I travel for a living, so there have been times that my wife and I talk on the phone–or before cell phones became cheap enough to talk on, through programs like the one Hotmail used to have. We would talk and play games; our son learned to play dominoes when he was about 3 by matching the patterns on the virtual bones to help my wife/his mom to play. By the way, my wife and I met in real life as the Internet was not a thing 30 years ago.

    My father-in-law, after being a widower for about 5 years, used some online program to meet his current wife. They got married about 20 years ago.

    I grew up in a town of about 3,300 people. Three traffic lights in town. And yes, there were no secrets; I remember my mom asking me about liking a girl in high school–that girl was a good friend but had not thought about asking her out on a date. Like Fatpuppy, I could not wait to leave–but it was nice not having to lock our car doors or house unless we went on vacation.

    • Tim, security and comfort are the death of personal evolution. I think many people prefer living in small towns because they gave up trying to be anything other than what they were when they were in high school.

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