I have met some really lovely people online... people I'd never have met in the 'real' world as they live on the other side of the world. We've shared stories, laughed together, encouraged each other and been supportive during difficult times. In some respects, relationships can develop at a much faster rate online, as you can talk anytime and don't have to brush your hair and go out (or get out of bed) in order to have a conversation. For someone like me, who keeps unsociable hours and likes lying down whilst conversing, the Internet is the perfect place to meet people. This is great if the person you're developing a friendship with is a sane human being, but what if they're not?
I trundled through my first ten years of Internet usage without a care in the world. I'd heard the horror stories about online relationships gone wrong, but I'd never encountered anyone who'd experienced one. I came to think of the stories as online urban legends... stories made up to make you tip toe around every web site's corner in fear of being jumped on by a hook-wielding, raincoat wearing fruitcake who was looking to rip out your virtual gizzards and hang you up by them.
Then I met my first fruitcake, and it wasn't the nice, fruit filled, icing covered variety that you get on your birthday... it was the compulsive mad woman variety who, if she lived in the same country as you, would be sitting outside your home all day and all night, noting down your movements in a little black book and photographing your milk bottles. Though, in this instance, it wasn't my milk bottles she was interested in... it was my husband. An exchange of innocent emails over the course of several months, mostly about writing, shared interests and family life, deteriorated into a situation where a deranged mad woman was getting ready to pilfer my man-chap and boil my bunnies. I was left in shock... stunned silence. As was Ryoma... and anyone who knows him will know how rare an event that is. I don't think I've ever seen him so thoroughly floored.
The experience affected the way that Ryoma and I approached people online. We went from being completely carefree to being decidedly guarded. At the end of the day, though, I came to realise that no matter how many fruitcakes land on you, or your significant other, you have to keep on putting yourself out there. You have to keep on risking getting hurt. If you don't risk fraternising with the fruities, how will you ever meet all the lovely, genuine people out there who make life so much more interesting?
A Mad Woman, 1822, Eugene Delacroix
Causes Gina Collia-Suzuki Supports
The World Wildlife Fund
Cancer Research UK