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 October 31, 2003
House & Home
Yellow Pages
Flirting Online: The Freedom of Anonymity
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We all know better than to judge a book by its cover, but can we really ignore the dust jacket? Packaging is hard to overlook.

A multi-billion dollar advertising industry banks on the notion that, like magpies, we will be instinctively drawn to all baubles bright and shiny.

Anyone who has paid good money to see a film that couldn't live up to its promotional trailer knows what I mean. People are too often judged on appearances, yet they have a lot more to offer than looks alone.

While there will always be those for whom "seeing is believing," many online flirts find that anonymity provides an escape from superficiality. Free from the social pressures dictated by looks and fashion, hordes of internet users are feeling braver these days.

Perspectives "Are you kidding?" exclaims Candice, a film programmer from England, "There's no way I'd ever come out with some of the stuff I say online if I was face-to-face with any of these guys."

Candice says she feels freer to take risks online than she does in a bar, where her self-consciousness makes her tense.

"I can't edit myself at a bar, or say what I truly feel. I don't know, I like going out and all, but sometimes it just seems like a big show."

With less social pressure online, Candice can relax and remain truer to herself. Others see anonymity as a major hurdle.

"Who knows who you've got on the other end," says Boris, another online flirt. "It's all good fun and my curiosity can be aroused, but electronic communication is not an honest indication of what a person is truly like."

Boris believes that body language is key to forming impressions. "You need to see the eyes to tell if someone is being truthful. You need to hear it in the voice, read it from physical clues, you know, twitches, nervous tics."

Contrary to Boris' fears of mis-representation, Ramona's interactions with the opposite sex have been transformed through her emails. "I catch them with my wit," she says. "It's all about your brain online."

Ramona considers herself "beyond jinxed" when it comes to flirting in person. She feels that her body language can be her very undoing. "I can be bolder online," says the 30-something office worker. "It's a rush because it's brain-based. I've never had much faith in my looks."

Though Ramona agrees that anonymity can provide an opportunity to lie about oneself, she counters that it offers a chance to be completely honest without worrying about "radioactive" social fallout.

"You're making impressions that you don't even realize and getting reactions you wouldn't expect. It can be a total ego boost. It makes the day more bearable." Ramona stresses that flirting is not necessarily sexual and can often be about sharing a skewed sense of humor.

"Some of the stuff I've sent out there, who knows what they might be thinking of me, but I feel like it expands my horizons.� Get a sneak preview of eLOVE today!

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