DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Back in december 2019, I joined a twitch channel to help develop my skill at a certain VR game and ended up sticking around that channel up until now. The person doing the streaming is an absolute sweetheart of a girl and helped me a ton with my life. Her small acts of kindness and genuine acceptance of my person gave me back my self-love, my self-worth and managed to get me out of a very long depression. We hanged out a lot in her discord server, she’d open up to me with her problems, with some of her desires and we would also play games together.
I’m sure you can see where this is going, I started to have feelings for her. At first, I didn’t really pay them attention, thinking it was not a real possibility because she lives so far away from me and kept that attraction buried. After around 10 months hanging with her and other friends of the community she created, the feelings grew to more than simple attraction, I was longing for her. I tried to approach her for a potential long distance relationship but it didn’t end very well. She said she wasn’t ready and that she’s a physical person and a distant relationship was not a possibility for her. I then spoke about it to someone else and it got her really angry about the whole situation but we managed to get over it and move on from it.
Now here’s the thing, that whole situation just showed me that it was more than just a longing for a relation. I am totally in love with her. True love level of love in fact. I’ve never felt feeling as strong towards anyone than what I feel for her. So I confessed those feelings to her at the end of november, that it’s actually love that I feel for her, not just attraction. She repeated that she’s not ready for a relationship, that she does not feel that way for me either. Still, I did something really stupid and I pushed it. I thought that the distance was the problem and that if I was willing to come to her (which I am), then maybe it could work. I asked her to give me a chance, I told her that love can grow between two persons. This caused her to actually burst into tears as she didn’t want to hurt me but really don’t want a relationship. She really do care for me but not in a romantic way… Seeing her hurt over this made me slam on the breaks, or rather, it made me divert my course into a brick wall rather than keeping hurting her. I love her with all my heart and it’s stronger than the very desire of being with her, I’d rather suffer than see her suffer from this…
The whole unrequited love made me have several mental breakdowns in the following day, I went into heavy crying for several hours, several times, silent screaming from heartache. The pain is very real and the only time I’ve felt something as intense is from the death of a dear one.
That said, I still want to be with her very badly, I don’t know if there’s any path for me to take that could result in that situation without her getting wounded in the process. She still want to be friends (very much so) and don’t want to end that friendship but was pretty clear that if needed, it will happen. I totally get that she wants to be left alone in that regard and I am not gonna make any direct move in that direction. I’d rather stay her friend than have her disappear from my life. Is there a chance she can eventually love me? How?
Is my love situation hopeless?
Does The Heart Get A Second Chance?
DEAR DOES THE HEART GET A SECOND CHANCE: I see that it’s that time of year again when I have to talk about not just parasocial relationships, but online-only relationships as well.
Parasocial relationships are, put simply, one-sided relationships that people form with individuals who they see in media. Because we see or hear somebody so often — whether on TV, YouTube, podcasts, Twitch or in the movies — we start to feel as though we actually know them. And for many, that sense of familiarity can feel a lot like a personal connection. While this phenomena is practically older than steam — people have formed these sorts of connections on silent film stars, after all — it’s especially prominent with the advent of podcasts, YouTube, Twitch, TikTok and other forms of digital media. First there’s the fact that creators are incentivized to push out as much content as possible. Podcasts, come out on a weekly basis, YouTubers and Twitch streamers will often post multiple times a week, often with videos or streams that run for hours at a time, and short-form digital media like TikTok encourages a veritable deluge of videos. The literal weeks of content that come out from creators on a regular basis can accelerate that sense of familiarity and connection like someone attached a NO2 injector to the engine.
Then there’s the fact that a lot of digital content creators — especially streamers and YouTubers — have financial incentives to create a sense of community and intimacy with their audience. Giving people this feeling that they’re on a first-name, intimate basis with their favorite streamers or podcasters or what-have-you encourages not just emotional investment but financial investment… either indirectly through views or directly through merch sales or crowdfunding.
(And we will pause to appreciate the irony of my saying this while I very pointedly do not look over at the Patreon and Ko-Fi links on my site…)
As the medium and the industries have progressed, this sense of community and access has grown to include private online communities like Discords, where people feel like they have even more direct access to their idols and favorite creators.
(Again, very pointedly NOT looking at my Patreon…)
And hey, I get it. One of the things that’s been keeping me sane as an extrovert in lockdown has been going for long walks while listening to episodes of Rebel FM, Behind the Bastards, You’re Wrong About and Critical Role; having those regular voices with me as I go through my day at least partially scratches my need for company. I can completely understand that sense of “yes, my friends, I know them well.”
However, even when you’re a regular on their Discord, it’s not the same as actually getting to know them or having an intimate relationship with them. They may be fairly open with their lives, even willing to talk about s--t that’s going on… that’s not going to be the same as an in-person friendship.
But hey, maybe there was a chance a real friendship could come from this. That can happen.
Speaking of in-person, let’s talk about the other side of this particular problem: namely that you’ve never actually met them in person.
Now I freely admit: am an Old Man of the Internet. I got on the Internet proper before The September that Never Ended, at the birth of the World Wide Web. Even back then, there was a lot of hue and cry about people falling in “love” over USENET and email and MUDs despite having never met in person. But here’s the thing: 99% of the time? Those relationships didn’t survive meeting in person. Because the truth is that — even when people were exactly who they said they were — there’s more to attraction and chemistry than how well the two of you get along in a textual medium. For that matter, there’s more to it than how you attractive you find someone when you’ve only seen their pictures or seen them on video. As the sage once said, love isn’t brains children, it’s blood. There’re hosts of physical and social cues that affect who we’re attracted to, in ways that we can’t consciously perceive. And, just as importantly: we can only determine those cues in person. It’s not just how they look or how well the two of you get along online or chatting, it’s in how they smell, how they taste, the timbre of their voice, even little social clues like how they treat others (such as, say, the waitstaff at the restaurant or bar). Without those… well, you’re making your best guess and hoping that the rest actually falls in line. And a lot of times… it doesn’t.
So here’s the thing: you had a parasocial relationship with her that turned into a crush. And hey, crushes are great! Crushes feel amazing. But you don’t need to act on a crush and you don’t want to round a crush up to “love”, especially when you don’t know that person as well as you think and you’ve never met in person. And — I hate to say this — but intensity isn’t the measure of the depth of feeling. You may have intense feelings for somebody, but that’s not the same thing as “true love”, my dude. What you have is limerence; it’s a type of crush that’s marked by intrusive thoughts about the crush-object and a deep, almost obsessive emotional fixation on the other person.
Trust me: damn near everyone reading this is nodding along at that description. Just about everybody has gone through this, especially when they’re young or relatively inexperienced. It’s incredibly common… and it always fades with time. The problem is that the intensity and the obsessive nature of it makes it feel like it’s much more than it actually is.
So the good news is: you’ll get over this. At some point in the near future, you’ll realize those feelings are starting to fade and down the line, you’ll be embarrassed about it.
The bad news is: no, there isn’t any way forward with your crush. Those times when she said “she wasn’t ready”, that “she wasn’t a physical person” and “doesn’t do long-distance”? Those were all what are called “soft no’s”, ways of turning someone down without rejecting them directly. People — women and femme-socialized folks especially — use these because it’s seen as being less direct and less hurtful (and, frankly, less dangerous) than just “no, I’m not interested”. The problem is that you either didn’t recognize these for what they were or take them seriously. The issue was never the distance, it was that she just didn’t like you that way, wasn’t going to and isn’t going to.
And while taking the rejection well wouldn’t have saved your chances… bringing it up to other people and pushing the issue was only going to piss her off at best. Dragging other people into your drama made it more embarrassing. Bringing it up again and ignoring her “no, thank you, not interested”, to the point of telling her “look, you could grow to like me” was telling her that you weren’t actually listening and weren’t going to listen. Don’t get me wrong: this wasn’t a crime beyond redemption or even anything terribly egregious. It’s that you handled a situation badly, it reflects badly on you and it put her in an incredibly awkward and uncomfortable place.
So, no, my dude. This was never going to happen, there was no path forward and you’re lucky that she’s still willing to be friendly with you. Your only path forward, such as it is, is to let this go. There’s nothing to be done here and, frankly, the amount of time and effort that you’re willing to spend to try to win her over would be far better spent finding someone who’s close by, who is available and who, critically, is interested in you, too.
The best thing to do here is to just chalk this up as a learning experience and get ready to cringe when you think about it in the future. You haven’t lost on the love of your life. This was just a strong crush that got intensified by the nature of digital celebrity (for suitably shallow definitions of “celebrity”), and you tripped over your dick. You’ll recover, you’ll do better in the future and the worst that’ll happen is that you’ll try really hard to change the subject if it ever comes up in the future because your embarrassment at your past self will make you want to dig a hole in the ground and pull it in after you.
Learn from this, and you won’t make these mistakes in the future.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com