Women Are Choosing Virtual Boyfriends Over Real Ones – And That’s a Huge Problem

By Julia Feeser

Star_Crossed_Myth_Prologue

Virtual characters from the Japanese game “Star Crossed Myth”.

Recently Vogue published a story about several women around the world who are engaged in virtual romantic relationships – meaning their boyfriends don’t actually exist.

Virtual relationship apps or games allow users to engage in pre-made storyline with a virtual character. Players develop the romantic story by interacting with their virtual character. In essence, the game offers a simulation of a romantic relationship – without real life consequences or complications.

The popularity of virtual relationships initially began in Asian countries such as Japan, but are now spreading to the states as well, through apps such as “My Virtual Boyfriend.”

“Virtual companionship, once a niche Japanese subculture, has mushroomed into a lucrative global industry. The first wildly popular virtual romance game created specifically with women in mind, called Angelique, was released in 1994 by a team of female developers at the Japanese gaming company Koei. Since then, others have been quick to capitalize. Voltage, the leading company in the Japanese market, currently offers 84 different romance apps.” – Pip Usher, Vogue

One of these women, Mook, is a 24-year-old living in Japan. She describes her experience with virtual relationships as one of escape:

“When she is not engaging with [her virtual boyfriend], she is often flirting with another of her virtual boyfriends, all of whom are available, at all times, in the palm of her hand. ‘[These apps] give me a chance to hide away from my real life, in which I don’t have a boyfriend,’ Mook says. ‘And by playing these games, it hurts nobody.’” – Pip Usher, Vogue

Depending on the app, players have the opportunity to choose a pre-made character (one that is programmed with qualities such as intimacy issues, mysterious, seducer, shy, and of course, exceptionally handsome), or create their own ideal character – one that reflects who they would like to meet in real life.

“‘[Women] dream of a guy who is handsome, controlling, and unreasonably in love with [them],’” says Marcos Daniel Arroyo, a software engineer at Cheritz who has built a career on understanding what women want from virtual relationships. The games allow women to date the kind of men they are attracted to, but without any of the hassle or heartbreak. They fulfill, says Arroyo, ‘the fantasy of a relationship that cannot occur so easily in real life.’” – Pip Usher, Vogue

From the outset, these games would appear to be a good solution to a desire for love and romance without the emotional repercussions real-life relationships can have. Women who desire the drama of romance can play this out in a way that impacts only them, thereby saving not only themselves but others from heartbreak.

Virtual relationships protect the players from experiencing very real hurt, angst, disappointment, or confusion. But they also make a real-life relationship increasingly impossible or unsatisfying because a real relationship can then never measure up to one that can be manipulated at will to fulfill the highest standards of romance and perfection.

Women who find themselves online, hoping to achieve the romance, relationship, and intrigue they desire in a real-life relationship will thus only ever be disappointed by a real person.

In our day and age, we have set impossible standards for ourselves when it comes to characteristics of a potential partner and the kind of romantic relationship we feel is both achievable and deserved.

In his book The Meaning of Marriage, author Tim Keller explains the common perspective and demand of relationships, particularly marriage, by those of marrying age today:

“Marriage used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals. Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me. But ironically, this newer version of marriage actually puts a crushing burden of expectation on marriage and spouses in a way that more traditional understandings never did. And it leaves us desperately trapped between both unrealistic longings for and terrible fears about marriage.” 

While an initial use of such simulated relationships apps may seem harmless or like a game, a steady stream of influence will eventually leave those involved longing for the same type of relationship in real life.

But real relationships don’t work this way. They cannot be put in a box, controlled, or manipulated to perfection. And if people seeking love continue to train their minds through apps such as these – or movies, or dating apps with endless choices of potential partners – they will find themselves lonely, isolated, and disappointed, unable to find contentment in a real but ultimately imperfect relationship.

Why Aggressive Rhetoric Hurts Real Dialogue

By Jason Soucinek 

SONY DSC

I debated whether or not to write this post.

I’ve sat on it for some time. However, the further I think about the ramifications of this political cycle on the dialogue we have with one another the more I feel compelled to share.

I am worried that we’ve lost the ability to have civil dialogue.

And why do I care about this as someone whose profession is to share a message of sexual integrity? Because I’ve seen this same thing happen around the topic of sex education. One person shouts their view and then the other shouts their opposing view even louder.

A barking dog only attracts more barking dogs.

I’ve learned over time and mostly from my own mistakes yelling louder doesn’t make our message more accessible. In fact, it usually misses the very people we are trying to reach.

I’ve watched both up close and from afar how those in the same field as myself, on both sides of the sex education issue, spend more time fighting one another than helping the students they want to aid. They spend more time telling others what they are against. I for one am tired of this. I’ve always believed telling people what we are for works much better.

A year ago I had the opportunity to sit down with several people around the country who opposed the work and the message I share on sexual integrity. However, I was not met with hate filled dialogue. Why? Because I was willing to listen and engage the points they shared. I sat side-by-side and built relationship.

My posture dictated the nature of the conversation.

In 2000 the Boston Globe conducted a “public conversations project” where they asked three pro-life and three pro-choice leaders to sit down and have conversations around the issue of abortion. This conversation grew out of a need to deescalate the rhetoric which had grown to a fever pitch after a shooting of an abortion doctor in the area.

The amazing reality of these meetings is that they worked! Posture changed what was said and how it was shared. Everyone who sat at the table learned to treat each other with dignity and respect. In fact, genuine friendships formed.

I find this radical compared to the world we live in at the moment.

Violence through our speech and especially through our action should never be acceptable. If we are going to contribute to a more civil dialogue we need to be willing to model it.

As a follower of Christ, I want my work to contribute to a more civil and compassionate society. This does not mean I have to compromise on my beliefs. In fact, the individuals who participated in the public conversations project grew more convinced of their own worldview, not less.

Our love for another should not be dependent on our affirmation of their worldview.

I don’t want to be another barking dog when it comes to sex education, nor politics for that matter. However, I do want to stay true to my convictions. I think both are possible and without violent rhetoric or action. But we must be willing to listen and sometimes that requires sitting side by side rather than going toe to toe.

 

10 Ways to Be Awesome on Valentine’s Day

guy with tie.jpeg

Well, friends, once again we have reached that special day of the year that we’re either really jazzed about, dreading, or have simply just completely forgotten until reading this post.

Valentine’s Day is a magical day if, like me, you enjoy the color pink and the sudden abundance of cupcakes and candy. Even on the Valentine’s Days of years past when I have had a significant other, my one true love has been, and always will be, copious amounts of sugar.

On Valentine’s Day, the world is divided into two types of people.

There are the single people and the non-single people (and then of course there’s the undefined relationships, which on Valentine’s Day suddenly feels like a very, very confusing time).

Valentine’s Day can be stressful for both types of people, whether you are agonizing over what to buy your sweetheart or what show to pick on Netflix as you sit alone in your pajamas.

Whatever camp you find yourself in this Valentine’s Day, here are 10 ways to make the 24 hours of love a little more awesome:

Call your parents.

Hey, your parents put up with you for a lot of years. They bought you clothes, made sure you didn’t only eat candy for breakfast (despite your best wishes), and kept you company while you were sick (and probably experienced way more vomiting than they actually wanted to). If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.

Leave a valentine for your next door neighbor.

You don’t even have to sign it! Can you imagine how much it would make your day to find an encouraging note on your door step?

Compliment your server.

Whether you stop by a coffee shop or go out for a romantic dinner, point out something awesome about the person serving you.

Make a donation to a local organization.

Show some love to the animal shelter, YWCA, or an organization that holds a lot of meaning for you.

Pick up litter.

If you’re out and about and see some trash where it shouldn’t be, throw it away! The planet deserves some affection, too.

Make a gratitude list to God.

Gratitude is one of the most beautiful and life-giving forms of worship. When we take a moment to stop and really say thank you for the beauty in our life and what God is doing, we honor the way He loves us.

Make a Love Myself list, to yourself.

Sometimes we get so caught up in everything we think we could be doing better, that we forget to be in awe of just how awesome we are! Make a list of things you love about yourself – traits, dreams, physical aspects, etc.

Text a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.

Let them know you’re thinking about them, and be sure to include a unicorn emoji.

Leave an encouraging comment on someone’s Instagram photo.

A little affirmation is way better than a simple “like.”

Show your health some love.

Go for a quick walk, breathe deeply in and out, or rest your eyes by not looking at your screen for a while. Good health is an amazing gift that is easy to take for granted – enjoy the freedom your well-functioning body provides you every day.

SHARE this post with a friend this Valentine’s Day – and tell them they rock while you’re at it.

Five New Year’s Resolutions That Benefit Our Relationships

By Holly Clark

looking at stars

New Year’s Resolutions are mostly frustrating (1) because they make you focus on yourself and (2) because a lot of them are unattainable.

We would like to challenge you to think about aspirations that will affect you AND others in a positive way. We know that our actions and beliefs about ourselves do affect those around us. Here are five things to think about as we continue in 2016 that can help us throughout the entire year.

Being present.

We always want to get to the next thing – the weekend, a new job, spring, lunchtime (my favorite time of the workday). And while there is nothing wrong with being excited about the future, we too often miss out on what is happening right in front of us!

As we continue into the new year, remember to stop – remind yourself of what you have right now that you are thankful for and take advantage of the people and situations that are right in front of you. All we has is this present moment. So don’t miss out!

 Saying no.

If you are anything like me, you take on too much and often find yourself exhausted. I am in a season of life where I am physically, mentally and emotionally unable to do as much as I have in the past.

I’ve said no to some very good things in order to take care of myself. I have felt guilty or selfish because I don’t wan to hurt people’s feelings. But the truth is, I was hurting them even more by taking on too much and not following through. When we are able to say no, we free ourselves up for deeper relationships and more meaningful experiences.

Saying yes.

And while it is important to say no, it is just as important to be discerning of what we need to say yes to this year!

In the past, I’ve been nervous to jump into something because how do I know it’s “the right thing to do.” As I get older, I’m learning it is better to take risks and make mistakes, then do nothing at all. Listen to yourself – be discerning of why you want to say “yes” or “no” to something. If your reason has to do with pleasing other people (for example) then don’t do it! If you aren’t doing something out of fear, maybe think about taking a risk.

There will always be difficult choices in life and learning to be discerning of what to say yes to will lead to some pretty unbelievable experiences.

Listening more, talking less.

Some smart person once said, “When you talk, you are repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new.”

We are a part of a culture that is extremely verbal–arguing on Facebook, tweeting, and texting – we forget the importance of listening to others. When we listen, we learn and our relationships grow. And trust me, learning to be a good listener takes discipline and time.

Train yourself to really listen; don’t think of what you are going to say next – be present and listen. You might learn something new about a loved one.

Not letting social media take over.

I’ve had lots of conversations with friends lately who are overwhelmed by all of the engagement, pregnancy and marriage announcements on Facebook (I’ve been there!).

Social media sites make it difficult to feel confident about our own life situations. But we cannot let this information keep us from living our own life. We are all on a different journey. No two people are the same and there aren’t requirements of if or when you should get married, have babies or be in a relationship.

My encouragement to you is to spend some time away from social media if you find yourself overcome by it. Remind yourself that where you are is exactly where you are supposed to be. My new rule of thumb is if social media becomes an avenue for me to separate myself from other people (compare, judge, etc) then I need time away from it. We are meant to be in relationship with people, to be genuinely excited for people. Let’s not let the internet get in the way of that!

Three Truths to Living a Transparent Life

 

By Jason Soucinek

phone and b packIt seems more and more often, I  become increasingly aware of how we position ourselves online and offline. Or rather, how we act when we think no one is watching.

This past year, 2015, was a testament to how prominent this phenomenon is becoming. There is a plethora of headline stories reminding us we don’t know what is really happening in someone’s personal life. Everything from celebrity pitch men being caught with child pornography to prominent Christian voices being caught in the act of adultery.

 It should surprise me, but it doesn’t.

Maybe the Internet has caused us to live two different lives. Maybe it has created a multiple personality disorder. While I’m not a social scientist, I do know I am seeing more and more people saying one thing online and doing an entirely different action in real life.

I work a lot with teens and young adults, so maybe this is not entirely surprising.

I fear we are only going to see more of the same trends in the years ahead.

In recent months I’ve listened to podcasts, had conversations with others, and read books on how we fail to acknowledge our whole being. Rather, we fail to bridge the gap between how we act around others and what we do in private.

Social media is changing the way we act

Online we are able to create our own persona. In fact, we can craft an entirely new identity. Our identity is shaped by what we post and others see. This is powerful, but this does not mean it always translates into other aspects of our life.

One book that makes this clear is called Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder.

Rudder is the co-founder of OK Cupid and has tons of data showing this multiple personality phenomenon in action. Story after story and data structure after data structure revealed how what we say we want in our online profile might not actually match with what we want in private (or what we actually do when no one is watching).

If we are going to see change in this kind of activity I really believe we’ve got to create a more transparent and vulnerable society.

 Here are three truths I believe are important to making this a reality:

Be humble and recognize your own brokenness.

Our human condition, as we read about it in scripture, speaks of our own brokenness. Genesis reveals this reality and Jesus is the solution. But this requires humility…recognizing we don’t know everything and we are all broken. Most importantly, I am broken!

Surround yourself with other transparent and vulnerable individuals.

Often times we model what we see around us. For the last decade many of us have modeled what we see others do online while watching them do something different in their daily lives. We need individuals who are transparent and vulnerable about their own struggles (both online and in person). This takes courage but it also encourages others to do the same!

Place your struggles in the light.

Our secrets only have power when they sit in the darkness. It is why light is such a powerful tool throughout Scripture; it reveals the hidden things in our lives. By placing it in the open the power that our secrets have are washed away almost immediately.