Virtual love can’t replace real human interaction, says scientists

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CHICAGO – The 1980s brought us video dating. In the 90s, we were dialing up to find love with the emergence of online dating.

Then there were hookup apps like Tinder that are connecting people with the swipe of a smartphone.

But are we too buried in our devices to notice the people around us?

Professor Florence Chee is the director of the social interactive media lab at Loyola University.

“When newspapers first came out, there was a widespread concern that we would no longer talk to one another. well clearly this is not the case. We're still talking with one another, we're just using these different forms of communication to link us socially,” said Chee.

And these days, we're not just talking to other humans - we're socializing with virtual people.

In 2013, the BBC profiled a group of Japanese men who are in romantic relationships with video game characters. And virtual reality is taking things even further these days with virtual worlds.

Put on a headset and you can enter places like the Utherverse, where people are dating avatars - even getting married in virtual weddings.

So looking to the future with the advances and spread of VR, will we even need to interact face to face, flesh to flesh anymore?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the author of “Kosher Sex and Kosher Lust.” Much of his work focuses on how we can make the most of our relationships.

“Any technology that enhances and facilitates greater closeness between a man and a woman in love is a good thing,” he said.

“We can't allow it to compromise intimacy. We can't allow feelings of awkwardness to develop in the relationship. We have to look someone in the eye and talk to them, because we become addicted, accustomed to communicated through the impersonal avenue of technology, so it's about values,” he added.

And then there is artificial intelligence. Take the movie “Her,” where a man falls in love with his computer operating system.

What if we could create the ultimate match for ourselves, even a robot that we could physically touch?

Professor Eli Finkel is the director of the Relationships and motivation lab at Northwestern University. He believes that no matter how advanced the tech gets, it will never replace the pleasure that comes from pursuing another imperfect human being.


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