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Cyber Love Can Bring Joy, Regret, Grief

These days, people can become infatuated or "in love" with someone they have never seen or heard. All it takes is a few "deep" online chats before romance is in the air.

Welcome to the world of cyber love, which, though it sounds impossible, has been gaining popularity in recent years.
The power of Internet has proved strong enough to bring together lovers who have few opportunities to meet in the real world because of distance or even financial barriers.
"I found my soul mate online and I am the happiest that I've ever been," Zhang Yan, a girl in her early 20s from Shenzhen, said.
An only child from a better-off family living in one of the country's most prosperous cities in southern Guangdong Province, Zhang met Wang Ju, a soldier from a poor rural family in central China's Henan Province.
Both online game devotees, Zhang and Wang became best partners when they met online playing a popular game in 2000.
When they met face to face in early 2001, the couple decided to extend their online intimacy off line, so to speak.
Considering the distance between the couple and the young man's current financial status, Zhang's family strongly objected to their love affair.
After more than three years of struggle, the couple finally got nod from the Zhang's parents and tied the knot in December.
Cyber love has gained acceptance, and is no longer something novel in China as it once was four to five years ago.
Sina.com, one of the country's leading web portals, has conducted a survey which involved more than 17,000 Internet surfers. As many as 69 percent of them had tried making romantic connections over the web.
Another such questionnaire by the popular domestic Sohu.com site found that more than 50 percent of respondents apparently trust cyber love.
An online couple from Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan Province even used their wedding ceremony as an opportunity to bring together online chums.
The couple, bride Jing Xiaomei and groom Zan Moshi, met and fell in love, thanks to a travel website.
Both members of an online travel club, Jing and Zan met each other while attending a club trek organized in 2002. They went on several more field trips before tying the knot recently.
A number of online peers witnessed the development of their relationship and showed hearty support.
At the couple's wedding ceremony, most of the guests, the best man and bridesmaid, were friends made in the virtual world.
"Thanks to the Internet, I found both love and friendship," Zan told the Chengdu Evening News.
However, online affairs do not always lead to happy endings.
A university student in her fourth year in Chengdu was duped into an Internet romance last year.
The student, who identified herself as "Moon" in chat rooms, thought she had found a new love and arranged to meet him late last year.
That's when she discovered "he" was a pair of 10-year-old schoolboy pranksters.
"Moon" told reporters that although she found some of "his" words naive and curious over the two months they chatted, she never suspected she was being duped until she insisted on a meeting and discovered her embarrassing mistake.
"Moon," whose heart was broken, may nonetheless be very lucky compared to others trapped in more serious and dangerous situations. Reports continue to emerge about cyber lovers being cheated, hurt or involved in scandals.
Some not only have had their marriages ruined, but have also been robbed or raped by Net "lovers."
A man who called himself "Kuaile Buyi" (a happy plain man) once organized an online forum on Netease.com and cheated some of its female members out of hundreds of thousands of yuan.
A victim who called herself "Hanqiong Diming" (cold song of crickets), posted a message on the forum that she was cheated of 50,000 yuan (US$6,000) last year by the scoundrel after he claimed his former girl friend was dying of cancer.
"The happy plain man" is simply a classic confidence artist using the new electronic medium to bag victims before disappearing after receiving money.
He is still at large.
Reports also have exposed many cases involving teenagers being victimized by those they meet in the cyber world.
Cheng Anfang, an 18-year-old high schooler in Chaohu, east China's Anhui Province, was reportedly fed sleeping pills and raped by a Net "lover" whom she had known for less than a month last year.
Later police rescued her from a local warehouse.
Many cyber romances start from online chats, which seem nowadays like a good way to kill time.
Besides finding soul mates and new friends, some also try to test the true feelings of their loved ones.
A mother in Zhengzhou of central China's Henan Province, reportedly tried to get to know her son better, a college student, via anonymous online chats.
The son hung around on campus and spent all his time chatting online during holidays. He seldom talked to his parents.
Acquiring a virtual identity herself, the mother surfed the Internet and became a very good Net friend of her son. She said she soon learned a lot about his life at the university, which is located in another city and grew to understand her child more.
The mother told a local newspaper recently that she is now worried about being discovered because she enjoyed chatting so much she just cannot stop.

(China Daily March 22, 2005)

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