This post aims to clarify some of the focal points of the virtual relationships (chat, e-mail and forums) that may arise between gay guys. About the definition of love and friendship in general terms many books have been written and it is not my intention to discuss the Two Chief World Systems, but if you want to give to the word love a connotation that is not too abstract, it must be assumed that falling in love may not be limited to intellectual affinity or to sharing moral values but must necessarily involve physical-physiological feelings related to sexuality in a profound way.
At this point a remark is necessary. When, in real life, a gay guy falls in love with another guy, his falling in love doesn’t start from the intellectual level or from the possible cultural affinities but from the physical attraction, i.e. by a whole set of factors that depend on the physicality of the other: smile, physique, voice, body attitudes, the tendency to behave more or less seductive.
This is so true that often gay guys fall in love with straight guys far away from them in every way, but able to embody “physically” their ideal guy. If a guy seems physically attractive we begin to ask ourselves questions about him and seek a closer contact in terms of dialogue, in practice we are interested in that guy. This mechanism of falling in love, which is typical of real life, cannot operate through the internet where everything remains detached from the physical dimension. In these situations is involved a projective mechanism that makes us imagine the guy with whom we are talking in chat according to our categories.
I stop for a moment to clarify what is a projective mechanism and how it may be conditioning reporting a concrete example.
There is a way to test the sexual orientation based on the reading a story “not sexually connoted”, i. e. that does not have in the text in any evidence to clarify with certainty whether one of the characters is a guy or a girl (lack of pronouns such as he or she, him or her and so on). The text then, in itself, is neutral.
When the story is read by a straight guy, that guy interprets it according to his categories as a straight story. But when the story is read by a gay guy, reading is not so automatic and often the guy comes to notice that the text hasn’t any sexual connotation, what a straight guy almost always doesn’t notice. On this basis it’s possible to construct projective tests for the determination of sexual orientation that have a concrete reliability. The projective reading is basically the reason of the charm of literature or the cinema because we project ourselves in the events and interpret them according to our experience.
An exchange of mail, a conversation via chat or a dialogue on a forum creates a text, more specifically a text written “with four hands”. This text has the characteristics of literature, even more accentuated by the fact that it is built with four hands, that is the better situation for projective readings but while the projective reading of a book is not aimed at the construction of an interpersonal relationship and everything remains inside the mind of the reader, in exchanging texts via the internet the projective inclination must sooner or later come to terms with the fact that on the other side there is another guy with his projections on the same conversation. There is basically the risk of misunderstanding, compounded by the fact that many chats remain at extremely symbolic and sublimated level and therefore are extremely open to projective interpretation. The projective mechanisms in contacts via the internet can be so important to bring even to put aside the idea of meeting the other guy in person because that could disturb or destroy the projective mechanism which in itself is apparently rewarding.
I would add that often in conversations in chat among gay guys is common the mechanism of the “drift towards the language of love” that is, the gradual and automatic indulge in a language that looks more and more like a language of love. It’s not at all uncommon that two guys who have never met in person end up talking like lovers. The emotional investment in these mechanisms is often very high and the projective dimension is so strong that the risk that the conversation is only the starting point for the construction of stories that exist only in fantastic projections is very real. Basically we create a partner to our measure, completing in a projective way the real elements (often of very low significance) that emerge from real dialogue. This is so true that a gay guy gets to fall in love with a straight guy, reading every single element that does not appear 100% straight as a sign of possible homosexuality and devaluating all those elements, usually very clear, showing that the guy is 100% straight.
But I must underline that the mechanism also operates in relationships between gay guys, that is, between guys who know with certainty that the other guy is gay. The projective mechanism reaches the point of attributing to the other guy a projective physical identity that doesn’t belong to him at all, that is, to embody him in an image that represents the projective ideal for the gay who fell in love with him. It gets to the point that the projective image of the other is also loaded with sexual values and it’s possible for a guy to experience a true sexual attraction towards another guy who he has never met. In practice we can fall in love also sexually with a person that 90% has been created by our projective imagination, that also attributes to him a body according to what we want. The drift towards the language of love does the rest and gives the distinct impression that you are building a true love story. But in all this there is a fundamental error, in practice the natural mechanism that leads from the physical attraction to the affection and love is quite upset.
Just remember that to fall in love in the true sense of the word physical and physiological involvements are essential but must be addressed to a real person, not to an image created by the projective fantasy. Some substitutes of the physical presence, such as photos or images sent by a camera cannot in any way replace the physical presence itself that remains the necessary element of the real falling in love, I mean that without the physical presence and without a genuine form of physical and physiological involvement there is no love.
I would warn guys who meet in chat to avoid the drift towards the language of love that only creates expectations that can be completely destroyed even by a short meeting where we realize that our projections had nothing in common with reality and that the speech (only the speech) went on to freewheel, far beyond reality. It is generally very easy to go on chatting using strong expressions, to say “I love you” and even without any real base but it is very difficult to resize these statements later, when they have already created big expectations that the direct personal knowledge has contradicted. At this point, if when the two guys meet, the disappointment is mutual, after all, the problem is easily solved because the expectations from both sides collapse at the same time, but if one is disillusioned and the other one feels physically strongly attracted, asymmetries become very strong and situations are difficult to manage.
In chat rooms or via e-mail, i.e. without direct personal knowledge, it is quite possible and I would say very less risky to create friendships, which are much less affected by projective mechanisms than possible love stories. I notice that the spontaneous tendency of guys is to look for a boyfriend to fall in love with, rather than one or more real friends in chat, but the tools are much more suited to the creation and maintenance of friendships than to the creation of love stories. As a good rule of prudence I would say that it would be good to reserve discourses with strong affective connotation only to people who you have actually met even outside the chat or forum that is you have known in person.
And here comes an important consideration. When two guys meet, being really two in front of each other, in real life after they have met in chat, the meeting gains a very strong affective connotation that makes it appear as a step towards the construction of an important and reciprocal story. This is why it is usually better to build relationships that start from friendship, meeting as a group and not as a couple, that is, starting relationships that do not create too many expectations that could turn into disillusionment. Friendship is always the first step, if the physical presence is engaging and encouraging then it may make sense to take a further step, otherwise the friendship remains and is not affected by the fact that is not followed by a story with a higher involvement because expectations have not been fed in the dark.
I would like to conclude that the internet (used with great caution, for heaven’s sake!) provides opportunities but can also create heavy disappointments and that if you love someone, even if only as a friend, you must avoid to deceive him letting him run towards cold final showers that leave a sense of deep sorrow. So it is good to always keep an attitude of responsibility and think in advance about the possible consequences of what you do and you say.