I am not going to discuss the pros or cons of online "ownership". This is a topic of great debate among the community. Some feel it is a worthwhile venture and considered "real" while others deem it nothing more than role playing.
That aside, we see the overall trend towards online interaction reflected within the BDSM community. Today, as compared to 15 years ago, BDSM is more in the open because of the Internet. Munches and other events are publicized online whereas, before, they were advertised in local rags. This resulted in the expansion of the online community. While this can be viewed as a good thing, this does bring up the question of how many of them are truly interested in this way of life?
The Internet provides a forum where one can maintain total anonymity if that is what is desired. Again, this can be a good thing for one who does not wish to publicize his/her choices. However, we run into a problem when people with less than ethical intentions are encountered. These individuals use the anonymity of the world wide web to create all kinds of havoc. Anyone who is delving into this medium needs to be mindful of what takes place out there.
To start, most of us witnessed the outright scams that are run. People do not telemarket for dollars anymore; they troll forums looking for people to interact with. Their intention is simply to separate a person from his/her money.
Secondly, we encounter those people who are bored with their lives and are simply looking to engage in fantasy/role play. While there is nothing wrong with this as long as all involved are aware, the fact is most often one of the parties believes he/she is dealing with something real. The anonymity allows one of the individuals to create whatever persona is desired to fulfill whatever desire is sought. Of course, the other person ends up in emotional upheaval and suffers because of it.
Another facet which I witnessed yet do not see mentioned much is the online friendships that arise. It is interesting to note that people can be rather clickish in their behavior. I was on more than one website where a "group" of friends were like a high school click going after people who were a threat. What is interesting about this scenario is the fact that these people did not know each other (for the most part). Many of them were just online interaction.
In economics there is something called "opportunity cost". What this means is that if a dollar is spent in one area, it cannot be utilized in another area. Thus, the opportunity cost is the amount that is lost by spending the money, as an example, as opposed to investing it.
I see a similar thing here. When someone "bands" together with an online friend, especially to the detriment of a potential dominant or submissive, I often wonder what is the opportunity cost. It is interesting to note that over time, I realize that these "friendships" tend not to last very long. Hence we have an individual who followed the little click while losing the potential to find someone who would be real with him/her.
Taken one step further, when I scour some of the BDSM "dating" sites, I see ones who are involved with others from far away places. While this can be a good starting point towards ultimate unification geographically, I often surmise about what this individual is missing by having an "online Master" (dominant, sub, or slave). While one is spending time with someone who he/she will never meet face-to-face, an opportunity could be lost to deal with someone local. Of course, this is not the case in all instances but I am sure it occurs quite regularly.
The sad truth is one needs to be skeptical of all encountered online. There are many who post and are truly as they appear. However, there are many, if not most, who simply are not. Lies and exaggeration are the norm in the online world. It will save a lot of pain and heartache if you accept this as reality right now. Protecting yourself is your first priority in any online endeavor.
Many feel that taking this approach is being coarse. Perhaps they are correct. Nevertheless, one only needs to be taken for a ride a time or two to realize the pain suffered by not following this path. The anonymity of the Internet not only allows someone to create whatever persona he/she desires, but disappearing is always a click away. I cannot tell you how many "people" I watched deal with someone who simply vanished. It was a basic case of here today, gone tomorrow. The reality is that the person might have frequented the same site just under a different profile. Again, the emotional damage left behind can be great.
Overall, I would say that this medium is dealing with a lot of people who lack character. I respect someone who has no interest and simply says that. People need to have a backbone. Sadly, this is not the norm. Most will interact with someone, even if truly interested, and then back away without a word when deciding the interest isnt there. This lacks character. If someone is willing to invest the time in you, or you in someone else, it is only fitting that one be open about what is going on. There is nothing worse than someone simply vanishing or ceasing communication. But again, we find this to be the norm.
The bottom line is to not only protect yourself but take those steps to ensure that you arent one causing pain by your actions. Be mindful of who you are dealing with and understand that person has feelings. Oftentimes we do things that inadvertently harm another. Naturally, our intentions were good even if the execution feel short. This happens to everyone since we all can get wrapped up in ourselves at times. However, repeated behavior of not considering others and what they experience put one in the category of abuser.
People who live the BDSM lifestyle should hold themselves to a higher standard. Being a person of character and integrity is paramount. This applies in all areas of our lives including our online interactions.
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