Critique: Virtual Love by Meghan Daum
Monday, March 21, 2011
Meghan Daum, an essayist and writer, born in California in 1970, recalls in her article “Virtual Love” the progress of an online relationship that ended up shaking her world and affecting her on several levels. The article which appeared in the August 25-September 1, 1997 issue of The New Yorker follows the author’s personal encounter with cyberspace relationships. Although the relationship initially seemed entertaining to an extent that the author put more effort into it than she had put in real ones, she ends her text by indirectly stating that “reality is seldom able to match the expectations raised by intoxication of an idealized cyber romance.” And as the readers follow the twists and turns of Daum’s online experience, the latter concludes that online-dating or virtual love rarely survives the physical world when confronted by its obstacles such as its pace, idealization, and mainly expectations.
The title “Virtual Love” reflects the contents of the text as well as the main idea. Daum has succeeded in choosing a title that defines her subject, restricts it, as well as offers the reader a close scope regarding the topic at hand. The title captures the main key words as well as the reader’s attention. Initially, they are capable of inferring the main topic and predicting that the article deals with cyberspace and relationships. Yet, they may wonder whether the text at hand will argue with or against online-relationships or simply retell the author’s encounters with online-dating.
At the beginning, the readers doubt the author’s credentials due to Daum’s occupation as a freelancer. But after taking into consideration the fact that this article was published in The New Yorker, a well-known magazine, the reader is more accepting regarding Daum’s position and credibility. On the other hand, the writer only bases her position regarding online-dating on personal experience. Since Daum fails to refer to researches, statistics, and facts in order to support her stand, the reader is skeptical. Due to the fact that the author is not an authority on the subject, and only refers to personal encounters, her credibility is shaken. And thus, the information presented doesn’t sound accurate or well backed. Had she referred to other researchers who seem more knowledgeable on the subject, the article would have been more authentic. Also, Daum’s reference to a personal experience and emotions pushes the reader to wonder whether or not Daum’s judgment regarding the issue is affected by her feelings: “was the information provided by the author subjected to her professional assessment or her personal view?”
Since the concept of virtual relationships concerns the general public, Daum addresses this vast audience by her text. By tackling a well-debated subject, Daum brings more insight to the topic at hand. Although the article is presented to the public, the writer fails at some point to clearly convey her message to the reader. For instance, the writer uses words that regular readers can’t understand without having to reread the sentence in order to understand the words through context or even check them out in a dictionary such words include oxymoron, epistolary among others. The writer indeed should have closely considered her language as well as her audience to effectively express the message.
It is known that support and evidence determine the success or the failure of the author is achieving his or her purpose. The author supports her point of view by using examples from her personal life. Daum does a good job by recalling several encounters with Pete that offer the reader an insight into online-relationships. For instance, she takes the reader onto a journey portraying several emotional stages which a person might experience. Starting with amusement, growing affection, addiction, romance and ending with a change of heart and disappointment, Daum portrays to the reader that online-relationships have no chance of survival in the physical world. Yet, by doing so, the author fails to tackle the subject at hand in an objective manner. Since all what the reader is offered is based on her personal experience and feelings, the text tends to be subject to the author’s emotions and less objective. On several occasions, Daum makes assumptions based on her own observations concerning online-dating which she fails to support which is a defect in her text.
Yet, one of the assumptions made by Daum that attracts the reader’s attention is one that concerns identity manipulation and molding according to the public’s preference. Daum for instance asserts that by stating, “Pete knew nothing of my scattered, juvenile self, and I did my best to keep it this way (Daum 1997).” Not only does the reader appreciate her honesty but also the reader can relate her assumption to the text “Boy, You Fight like a Girl” which is a text discussed earlier in class. Daum also presents the reader with multiple fragments of her identity: the Juvenile person within her versus the successful writer. By doing so, Daum raises questions concerning identity manipulation, cyberspace, and integrity which indulge the reader in a debate. Yet, again she fails to capture the readers’ full support as she only provides evidence based on her opinion and personal encounters.
The author doesn’t avoid logical fallacies throughout her text. Daum makes several hasty generalizations as she bases her article on her personal encounters; she assumes that all virtual relationships end up with heart break and disappointment. In fact, the author forgets that some online relationships end with happy endings. By excluding this counter argument, her text only discusses one side of the issue at hand, hence, doesn’t follow logical thinking which requires support, arguments and counter arguments, and credible evidence. Had the author included a counter argument, refuted it and not only appealed to the reader’s ethos and pathos, the text would have been more credible, scientific, and logical.
Daum also uses emotionally loaded words to convey her message which appeals to the leader’s ethos and pathos but also manipulates his logos. For instance, the author refers to the human desire to be love, adored, and desired by others. Since this desire in found in every person, by referring to such issues the author uses an emotional rather than a logical approach to tackle the subject. The reader then sympathizes with the author rather than evaluates her credibility. For example, the writer states, “I wanted it, all of it. I wanted unfettered affection, soul-mating, true romance (Daum 1997).” Another example is when the author shows her disappointment and distress at the end of the article by stating that, “Our particular version of intimacy now obscured by the branches and bodies and falling debris that make up the physical world.” The reader is heavily impacted by word such as obscured, debris, affection among others, and feels the author’s contempt and dissatisfaction rather than digging deeper to know the reason behind the relationship’s failure in the physical world.
As a sum up, “Virtual Love” a text by Meghan Daum discusses online-relationships based on the author’s personal experience. Through a personal lens, Daum intrigues the reader with her personal encounters and concludes that the physical world stands as an obstacle in front of online-relationships. The writer as discussed earlier carries the reader on a journey into her personal life recalling events that ended up leaving several ripples on her life. Overall, the writer did a good job presenting her idea and supporting it using personal experience, yet fails when restricting her support to her encounters. In the end, the reader is left with questions concerning virtual love, the physical world, and the ultimate desire to attain happiness.
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