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Soul Mate in a Box Relationship Trend

Daniel Jones, the editor for The New York Time's "Modern Love" column, has had access to the love lives of tens of thousands of strangers. From this perspective, he's noticed two trends. A few years ago, many young people wanted to "hook up" without getting involved in a relationship. But now he's noticing that people want intimacy without sex or without even meeting in person. The entire relationship is based on a virtual connection through instant messages, email, Skype, and FaceTime. He calls these relationships "Soul Mate in a Box," or Smiab, for short.

Jones notes that most Smiab relationships fail, as was the case in this relationship:

One woman I heard from had been reveling in a monthslong online relationship with a man who lived hundreds of miles away, and their bond had grown so intense that they finally decided they had to meet and see if their online magic could translate into an actual relationship. So one Friday she drove nine hours to spend a long weekend with him. And it went O.K. at first. But soon it became clear that their online chemistry wasn't happening in real life. Their once urgent conversations had dribbled away to nothing. Now that they were physically together, it was as if they each had become the person to escape from instead of the one to yearn for.
Before long he began sneaking glances at his cellphone when they were at a restaurant and drifting away from her to his open laptop when they were back at his apartment. Eventually, she was left to sit quietly aside as he searched online for the emotional fix he'd grown accustomed, scrolling for something, anything, to capture his attention.

Why do people desire and then pull away from Smiab relationships? Jones says we're afraid of one thing—vulnerability. He writes: "That's the worst part of the whole love game, putting oneself out there to be judged and rejected. So when we get the chance to hide—[through social media we can edit and control]—we're freed from much of that anxiety, and we're fooled into thinking this may be a better and truer way of having a relationship."

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