The Italian Almanac
Italian News - February 24
Online love is booming, with a growing number of people turning to the internet to find partners, according to a leading Italian psychiatrist. Addressing a conference of Italian psychopathologists, the director of Palermo University's Psychiatry Unit, Daniele La Barbera, said more and more people were finding romance through chatrooms, blog sites, newsgroups and discussion groups and bulletin boards.
The trend started a few years back but has grown at a dizzying rate over the last few years and some three million Italians are now thought to use online chatrooms on a regular basis. Initially limited to 'net geeks', the internet is now an integral form of communication for people of all ages and social backgrounds, said La Barbera.
A real danger is that people with psychological or emotional problems meet each other online and provide the wrong kind of support and encouragement, which can prove extremely damaging. Perhaps the best-known example are the Japanese "suicide pact" websites, which received extensive media coverage last year. But websites for anorexics, for example, can prove equally damaging, La Barbera said.
Despite these warnings, La Barbera admitted that the internet could prove beneficial, providing certain rules were followed, if treated with caution, the internet can provide help and positive support, as well as offering an excellent source for new social contacts. "For example, there are a growing number of chatroom users for whom the internet is actually providing a cure for their problems," La Barbera concluded. "I know of various cases of people who have been helped out of a difficult period thanks to online contacts, who have provided them with the support needed to gradually guide them back to reality."