For example, according to this participant (27 years of age, male, heterosexual, living in Parramatta):NOU
Are you quiet? What if I meet them face to face and the chemistry is just not there?
There was often judgment directed towards those who had been in immersed in fully ‘digital’ romances, which lacked face-to-face components.
A certain derision was cast towards these ‘faux’ types of relationships, such as by this participant (35 years of age, heterosexual, female, living in regional NSW):
I’ve got a girlfriend at the moment who is six months into an online romance or telephone romance or video romance or whatever that is, but they haven’t met yet. But unless you put it into the real world you just never, never know. You just don’t. It can be this kind of Jane-Austen-esque life and romance, but if you don’t have that chemistry, and that smell and that attraction in real life, it’s just not going to translate.
Chemistry, here, is something ineffable which can only be ascertained in the physical realm. Catherine Belsey (1994, p. 23) argues that the promise of ‘true love as the romances portray’ is ‘to bring mind and body back into perfect unity’, uniting ‘[p]hysical sensation, the overwhelming intensity of erotic desire’ with ‘rational and moral commitment, a shared life of sympathy and support’. We could roughly equate these with ‘chemistry’ and ‘intimacy’. Participants were frustrated at not being able to develop the latter in the app space, but do seem to have maintained a belief that it was possible, albeit a fluctuating belief depending on where they were in the jagged love cycle. The former, however, was positioned as impossible without a physical encounter. The pandemic provided no opportunities for these physical meetings to occur. For example, according to one participants (30 years of age, male, heterosexual, living in Sydney):
I actually don’t know where any of this can go … I’m chatting to all of these people, but I can’t physically meet them, so ;m just talking to them out of boredom. Like it’s a little ping of excitement.