Technology helps and hinders love


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In Lebanon, people are now going online more to find love and communicate with the loved ones who are far.
Ayman Itani, Think Media Labs CEO, says that email and texting are good ways to stay in touch for those whose relationship is already strong.

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Technology helps and hinders love

  1. 1. THE DAILY STAR :: Culture :: Lifestyle :: U r gr8: Technology... FRIDAY, 23 DEC 2011 11:45 PM Beirut time News Business Opinion Sports Culture Technology Entertainment Art | Books | Film | Performance | Music | Lifestyle | Travel & Tourism U r gr8: Technology helps and hinders love December 22, 2011 01:15 AM By Brooke Anderson The Daily Star The debut issue of ON Magazine with a cover story, “Looking for Love Online.” BEIRUT: As a tech guy with a stutter, Haytham Elkhoja says that going online has been the best way for him to meet women. In fact, that is how he has found most of his past girlfriends. “I used to stutter, so it was an easy way to socialize, because you have more time to think about your answers and your ‘tactics,’” says Elkhoja. “You can’t just stare in front of a woman while you decide which joke to say, or which anecdote to tell. In front of the computer, such as now, I’m choosing my words carefully. It’s slower to type than to speak, so you can think as you type.” In Lebanon, as in many other parts of the world, an increasing number of people are going online to find partners, stay in touch and flirt. It is often easier than approaching potential suitors in person, and the "In the end, no one wants amount of time people now spend in front of their screens or communicating by smartphone has made to get hurt or feel rejected, the practice relatively routine. and it’s really easy to This year, the word “sexting” – the practice of sending sexually explicit text messages via mobile phone control your self-image –became part of the Oxford English Dictionary. And according to a 2009 Stanford study, today, around 30 through technology." percent of new couples in the U.S. meet their partners online, often on dating websites or on Facebook. “I’d say Facebook is important for dating anywhere in the world. It is where we craft the idealized image of ourselves – even more so in a society that values outward appearance like in Lebanon,” says blogger and author Nasri Atallah, who writes on Lebanese youth culture for his blog “Our Man in Beirut” and has published a book by the same name. “Well, there’s much more flexibility and freedom. You don’t have to go to a restaurant or movie theater or mall. You just talk online. It can help you really get to know each other,” says Michael Oghia, author of the LOVEanon, a blog about love and relationships in Lebanon. “Maybe in more conservative circles, approaching someone through social media is less invasive than doing it live,” Atallah says. “It’s also a way to reinforce ties between communities that are here and those that are abroad, which also applies to romantic links,” he adds. But as many people are using technology to enhance their self-images and stay in touch with romantic interests, many others use it to hide their true personalities, and in some cases the access to information causes people’s insecurities to surface. (“Facebook stalking” has entered the online urban dictionary, while Wikipedia has an entry on “cyberstalking” as well as a sub-entry on cyberstalking “of intimate1 of 2 12/23/11 11:52 PM
  2. 2. THE DAILY STAR :: Culture :: Lifestyle :: U r gr8: Technology... partners.”) “I do think people hide behind technology,” says Oghia. “It’s really easy to mask who you are with it, and refine the projection of yourself through technology ... In the end, no one wants to get hurt or feel rejected, and it’s really easy to control your self-image through technology, through what you reveal, how you create profiles or an online presence.” “It’s really easy to hide your flaws online, and it’s just easier to hide yourself online than in person. Although it’s unwise to plaster your whole personality or self online, you shouldn’t use technology to mask who you are. This is really applicable to dating,” he adds. But some people have found that their suitors have also inadvertently created unrealistic expectations of them through their online interactions. Samer Kassem, an assistant project manager at a retail company, who uses the online dating site OK Cupid, says that some of the women he’s met on the Internet expect him to be more talkative in person, although he says he hasn’t intentionally misled anyone about his image. He attributes this to the tendency many people have of being more confident online and he cautions that people shouldn’t develop an attachment to someone they haven’t met in person. “Now some people speculate that developing romantic feelings via [technology] is possible, even without meeting physically the other person. Personally, I believe this is usually delusional,” Kassem says. From his experience, he insists, “nothing can substitute for human interaction [face-to-face] in creating intimacy. If the couple just relies on online communication then any intimacy between them will fade eventually.” The reason, he’s found, is a “lack of body language in online communication. Even webcams don’t compensate that lack.” Social media consultant Ayman Itani agrees that nothing takes the place of personal interaction. He points out that one of the most important tests in a relationship is when one person shares bad news with their partner. “When something happens, you can see how someone reacts,” he says. “This isn’t the case online.” On the other hand, he says that email and texting are good ways to stay in touch for those whose relationship is already strong. Elkhoja, who has no qualms about the fact that the foundations of his social skills are online, says, “Pop culture and the whole nerds are sexy turned out to be great for me.” Today, he’s in a committed relationship with a woman he met online. But despite his natural tendency to express himself online, he also believes that many people, including himself have a natural tendency to hide behind technology. He says, “Some people hide behind clothing and fashion, some people hide behind their big cars. It’s all the same to me... whoever says they don’t are probably lying.” A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 22, 2011, on page 12. © 2011 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS2 of 2 12/23/11 11:52 PM