Before I upset anybody, I am not referring to:
Couples that met online and quickly transitioned to knowing each other in person and regularly seeing each other, and live within a reasonable distance of each other (couple of hours of driving maximum). Even this kind of relationship is in very questionable territory, but it's far more hopeful and realistic than the types of relationships I am talking about.
Couples that were together in person for a significant period of time, and then had to be separated for weeks or even months due to work, family issues (such as having to go away for a while to take care of an elderly or sick person), or military responsibilities.
I am referring to:
Couples that met online and live in different countries. I suppose this can exclude couples who, let's say, include one person living in Buffalo, New York and the other living in Toronto, Canada - even then, there are questionable aspects to the relationship.
Couples that met online and live considerably far apart, even if in the same country. Example: One person living in Washington, the other living in Florida in the United States.
Couples that met online and their entire relationships has only been online. This is especially bad if the relationship is considerably long - upwards of half of a year is a big yikes.
Couples whose only interactions are text messages, phone calls, and/or video calls. Even worse if there are no video calls.
Couples that live far enough apart that it's extremely expensive and difficult to see each other in person, and can only manage it every couple of weeks or God forbid months.
Couples who met online whose relationship has dragged out for months or years with no hope of closing the gap permanently. Even if there is hope, the relationship is highly questionable.
To be honest, this isn't a female-specific issue. I've had male friends and acquaintances who were sucked into hopeless, unrealistic online "relationships" that ate up months or even years of their lives. These were people who were in their 20's or 30's, who should have been out enjoying life, but were stuck in a "relationship" with their smartphone. I've seen young people spend years of their lives turning down social events and even realistic relationships because of a person who they had no hope of ever actually being with. But there are risks in online "relationships" that are female-specific, or are far worse for females. It's something worth explaining to every young person. I am tired of seeing people I care about fall into this trap.
Let me explain, and I will try to be nice.
Objectively, online "relationships" largely appeal to people with poor self-esteem and low confidence. If you have healthy self-esteem and healthy confidence, you will pursue potential romantic partners in person. You will not be inclined to dedicate months or even years of your time and energy to an online "relationship" because you'll automatically know that it's not worth it and won't yield anything positive. Poor self-esteem and low confidence allows people to justify or explain away all of the red flags and obvious issues with online "relationships". When I was younger and had online "boyfriends", it's because I felt like I wasn't "good enough" to get a boyfriend in person (I was in my teens). I felt happy that anybody wanted me, even if they lived in Russia and I lived in the United States and I knew, deep down inside, that I would never see them in person. This is also the case for all of my friends who unfortunately got caught in the trap of online "relationships".
There is also the very harsh truth of the fact that you cannot really know a person through text messages, phone calls, and/or video calls. I also believe you can't really know someone if you very rarely see them in person. It's very easy to put on a show and pretend to be someone you're not if your relationship consists of a daily 30-minute Facetime call. It's even easier if the relationship does not involve video calls - people still get catfished today. I had one friend in an online "relationship" for close to a year where it turned out the person was sending fake pictures, and this friend spent months making excuses for why their partner didn't even video call.
If you're in an online "relationship", you've likely never seen your partner's way of interacting with other people. You've likely never seen how they deal with anger. You've likely never seen what their hygiene and cleanliness is really like. You've likely never seen what their work ethic is like. You've likely never had to deal with uncomfortable or ugly parts of their personality because they are so easy to put away for a daily scheduled call. It's very easy to say what you will be like in any of those situations, but you do not know until you've spent a considerable amount of time with that person, in person. I'd go as far as saying that you don't really know someone until you've been to their house regularly, met the people closest to them, and spent enough time around them to know how your relationship works when one of you uses up all of the hot water at 6 am or forgets to buy a new jug of milk after you've asked them to. An online "relationship" fundamentally lacks almost all of the characteristics of really, truly knowing another human being. You don't even know what they smell like!
The things that a person could be hiding in an online "relationship" include: Their appearance (very easy to do), their age (very easy to do), where they even really live, their other relationships (what's stopping them from having five other online "relationships"?), their name (seen it happen), their education, their job or work stability (had one do this to me when I was young!), a drug habit, a real-life relationship with a person they live with (the texts/calls could be planned around when their real partner isn't home), their criminal history, and so on. The possibilities are endless, and while it's possible for people to lie about this in a real, offline relationship, it's much harder to pull off and much easier for you to discover that you are being lied to.
Let's say that the validity of an online "relationship" doesn't automatically fall apart when faced with the tough things that I've already mentioned...
How often do you see each other? It's easy to be someone you're not when you see each other once a month, if that. How realistic is it that you will one day live together? Do you want to live together with a person you barely really know? I have seen plenty of couples who met online eventually move in together, and then had the relationship completely fall apart after realizing that they did not know this internet "boyfriend/girlfriend" at all. Lies were discovered and ugly parts of people's personalities came out.
What if you live in different countries? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to immigrate between most first and second world countries? There is not a single first or second world country that "automatically awards citizenship when you marry one of their citizens" (common and extremely frustrating misconception), marriage-based immigration is extremely expensive and takes years to pull off. You will have governments thoroughly investigating the validity of your relationship for up to a decade, and there are usually income requirements to be able to help a spouse immigrate to any first or second world country. Those income requirements are not low by any means. Not to mention the thousands of dollars you will have to spend on legal fees. Then, how do you know your relationship with a person you barely know will survive culture shock and one individual trying to completely reestablish themselves in a new country?
The last thing I will mention is physical intimacy. There is no intimacy in text messages and phone/video calls. I'm not even just talking about sex - but touching, kissing, cuddling. Those are things that we do out of biological programming, they are bonding behaviors. You are in a "relationship" with a screen and you have never even experienced a true bonding moment with the person you are (possibly) communicating with through the internet. When it comes to sex, a lot of people in online "relationships" send pictures and videos that they absolutely should not be sending - you are giving incredibly intimate material to a person who you barely know and probably won't work out with. Do you not see how insane that is? Do you know that those things are typically permanently stored in the databases of whatever app you are sending them through?
I'm sorry if I come off as judgmental or mean. But it's the honest truth. I see it so often these days. I meet many young people in person who tell me about their boyfriend/girlfriend that "lives 5000 miles away". And I don't want anyone else to waste their life like that.