It's Valentine's Day, the happiest or saddest day of the year, depending on your relationship situation. For loners looking for romance, the virtual world has become a seductive option. The Internet offers avatar girlfriends, virtual sex, curvaceous robots and virtual worlds populated with the possibilities of digital soul mates.
But digital dating is not all fun and games. People tend to take risks they may not take in the real world and those risks carry consequences that can affect your behavior in the real world. So, before you fall head over heels for a digital babe, here is some advice to consider.
Distinguish Real from Virtual It may seem obvious to many people that a virtual world isn't reality. But it's easy to get lost in the fantasy. Research has shown that the intensity of virtual experiences can even alter the way people behave in the real world.
"People relate to their avatars as extensions of themselves," said Brett Durrett, CEO of IMVU, an avatar-based virtual world.
But anyone who's ever spent time in a virtual world knows it's easy to swap gender, age, race and size in a moment's notice and not represent who you really are. People get immersed in the fantasy and can neglect responsibilities and etiquette normally expected of one another.