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I read your recent stuff on love, and am really surprised that you are such a fan of finding people online. Are you that naive? A person can pretend to be anything and anyone, and you have no way of knowing there true intintions [sic]. Please tell me your [sic] kidding.
Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not kidding. In fact, I think you've been reading too much Ann Landers and other mainstream "advice" crap. The majority of people online are not looking for online sex; they're not pedophiles; they aren't any different from people in general. That's because the people online are the people out there in the real world! They aren't some intergalactic visitors here to destroy our civilization.
Okay, so maybe I'm going overboard here. But I'm really, really tired of all the hyperbole surrounding online relationships. So, instead of continuing a rant, I'll offer some evidence in support of my advice that may help open some eyes.
I have been online since way back; I was using bitnet and arpanet in the 80s, and have been emailing folks around the world since then. That doesn't make me an expert, though; I'm simply an old user. As email became more common, and commercially available, I began meeting people, primarily via discussion lists. Despite the fact that the male-to-female ratio on the lists I was on was generally 10:1, I was never hit upon, never sent obscene email, and never treated with anything but the same respect given to other members of the lists.
In fact, one of the groups got so chummy we decided to meet in realspace. We coordinated a camping trip, and a few months later, about 15 of us showed up at the foot of the Tetons. The meeting was a lot of fun; everyone enjoyed meeting other like-minded people, and several long-term friendships were forged as a result of that trip. The camping trip has become an annual event for that group, with new people coming every year. With very few exceptions, the experience has been positive, and much value gained from meeting in person. There have been no sexual or other kind of assaults, no fraud perpetrated, no theft of anyone's property at these trips. They've helped cement strong friendships that formed online -- friendships that are trusted much more than the friendship based on living close to someone, or having kids in the same school or on the same little league team. These friendships count for something, as has been demonstrated time and again.
But you were cautioning specifically about love ... Well, it just so happens that I met my partner and best friend online. We were both on one of those discussion groups I mentioned above, and he responded privately to a post I'd written. I wrote back, and before either of us knew it, we were exchanging several emails a day as we discovered other areas of common interest. At this time I was even't looking for love! I considered myself happily married, and thought of my email correspondent as a good friend.
As my marriage began to dissolve, he showed his value to me time and again, helping me try to find ways to get my marriage working again. When it didn't, and I finally was free to explore other options, we both were interested in doing so ... and the rest, as they say, is history. We have been partners for over 5 years, and have two beautiful children.
None of this would have been possible if he or I had been trying to create an online persona substantially different from the individuals we are. We were open and honest -- sometimes painfully so -- with each other from the outset. As our situations changed and our emotional states changed, we communicated with each other about them, so that our friendship continued to meet our needs. We've never played head games, nor tried to manipulate or force the other person into something. A great deal of trust had been established in the online friendship, so when we physically met there were no surprises -- just an extension of a good cyber-friendship to flesh and blood.
What it comes down to is this: the same guidelines apply for finding a love relationship anywhere. A person needs to be psychologically healthy, and have his or her needs clearly in mind. An individual must communicate with others about his or her needs, feelings, and goals -- and their changes -- openly and honestly. Basically, be yourself, do the things you love, and you ought to be able to find interesting people of the other sex while you do.
Do you remember when the advice was to try to find potential romantic partners at libraries and movies? The idea was that someone else checking out books on paper-making, birds, and science fiction had a lot of common ground. It's the same concept, brought into the technological age. The internet can be a wonderful filter for finding like-minded individuals, if you set about it properly.
I've read a lot of your articles and columns, and want to thank you for your courage in speaking up. I fear for you, storm clouds are gathering and lightning hits the tallest thing. I wish I could help you but I can't do that right now. Please be careful.
[Several individuals who've asked to be anonymous]
First, let me say that your concern is very touching. It's nice to know that my writings have meant something to so many people. While I appreciate your concerns, and try to be "safe," there's no way to do that these days.
The Thought Police can make a target out of anyone, just about anywhere, at any time, if they want to. A little white dust sprinkled in a car or garage, or maybe some dried herb, and there's probable cause for a drug bust. Manipulate some innocent photos of a parent and child, engage in some fancy emailing, and the parent is facing pedophilia charges ... the possibilities are endless. If they want someone, they can grab them. Sad to say, but it's just about that easy. I'm no more a potential target than anyone else ... just a more prominent one because I publicize my disdain for the state and its minions.
I do try to be careful, but I can't sit still and let tyranny take over without a fight. Many of you who wrote and expressed fear for my safety cited family as your reasons for not helping. I have a family too -- a wonderful partner, 4 sons and a daughter who mean very much to me. It's as much for them, especially the children, as it is for myself that I defend freedom and try to educate others as to its importance in our lives. I simply could not face myself in the mirror if I did not take some action every day that works to advance freedom.
Yes, these are fearful times. But if we continue to cower in fear, they will simply get worse. I was talking with a good friend the other day about the encroaching police state, and the conversation turned to the "Are we there yet?" question. My friend said no, because what's happening in the U.S. now is just an inkling of what could come down the pike. Depressing as that is to consider, it's also true: things can get much worse here. The question is, therefore, Will we let them get worse?" My answer is clear.
I understand the concerns that breadwinners, parents, and caretakers of elderly parents face. I've been in all those roles too at various points in my life. But, the plain and simple truth is that every person can take some principled action in support of freedom every day, with little or no risk of a Thought Police operative grabbing him or her.
Most readers are probably familiar with the Edmund Burke quotation: "For evil to triumph it is only necessary for good men to do nothing." Rather than give away a forthcoming Sierra Times column here, I'll leave you with one thought that ought to be enough to get you thinking about what you can do to advance freedom today ... and every day. That thought is: Cell of One activities.
Send your questions to The Freedom Advisor. Unless requested otherwise, all replies will be published here in Doing Freedom!.
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