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Most of us have pretty much never lived our adult lives without the internet.It’s affected us in innumerable ways – some good, some very bad – and despite not really knowing what a world without it looks like, it still continues to surprise us.
She described the incident in a public Facebook post that read, in part: At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.In our Extremely Online series, we explore the apps, trends, subcultures, and all the other weird stuff the internet continues to offer.Max* met his partner around 18 months ago, when they struck up conversation in a bar.But while virtual relationships and the feelings underpinning them can be real and intense for those involved, the users I spoke to all referred to the real world implications of virtual love.Max and his fiancee live on different American coasts but are determined to make their relationship last by meeting up offline in the near future.It’s a huge-scale multiplayer virtual reality universe in which players navigate virtual lives as avatars, meeting, interacting, and even, in Max’s case, marrying others.
“The relationship developed just like a real world one, and the feelings we have for each other are exactly the same,” says Max, who speaks to me between his real life part-time job as an office administrator and the ten-hour shifts he puts in daily on VR Chat.The ethics here are complex, and still the subject of much debate, says Dr Trudy Barber, a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Portsmouth who specialises in VR and sexuality.“The foundation should always be respect” she says.“We have a mutual understanding that cheating boils down to intention.If my boyfriend were to meet someone in VR, it would bring up a discussion about what we ultimately wanted from each other, and how to continue from there”.“If someone is going to hide a virtual relationship, they’re probably also going to hide that they’ve gone to the pub and met someone there”.