In Online Seductions, she coined a phrase for the kinds of relationships that her patients struck up.They were “uniquely intimate” because they “grew from the inside out.” Gwinnell’s patients said some version of the same thing again and again.The author of The Joy of Cybersex, Deborah Levine, had spent several years counseling college undergraduates at the Columbia University Health Education program. Like earlier safe-sex activists, Levine used bullet-point lists to introduce the sites her readers should know and to teach them the language that they would need to thrive on them.
In others, gay teens who felt isolated in the homes they were growing up in could do the same. By the time he graduated, one in six gay kids who went to high school in the late 1990s would get beaten up so badly he needed medical attention at least once.“She began regaling me with descriptions of her expanding lingerie collection. In short, she was becoming her online personality.” Surfing was the new cruising, and it could change lives.In “health” class, the point of our endless discussions was to scare us off of sex for at least a few years.In the interim, using the right expression at the right time was the only way to flirt and bond.Like The Joy of Cybersex, the first issue of Wired magazine came out in 1993.For the first time in history, dating let young people seek mates and life partners on their own behalf, in public places.Spaces like bars and boardwalks shared many features in common with chat rooms. Sure, people worried about other people misrepresenting themselves.Without family and friends hovering over you, you could be yourself and frankly express your feelings. Early on, mental health professionals started observing that meeting strangers online often had a similar effect.The psychiatrist Esther Gwinnell decided to write a book about “computer love” after a string of patients came to her office reporting that they or their partners had fallen for a stranger online.“The relationship is all about what is happening inside of the soul and the mind, and the body doesn’t get in the way.” “We met our souls first.” This was the benefit of cyberdating, especially for singles who felt insecure in the flesh.The downside was that in the absence of visual cues or social context, it was often difficult to tell your interlocutor from the person you hoped he or she might be.