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Having a Relationship With an Avatar: Pros and Cons

What avatars mean for love and connection.

Key points

  • Relationships with avatars are no longer science fiction: Educators, policymakers, and psychologists must prepare for this new era.
  • Avatars allow people to explore different identities and roles, such as in their romantic or sexual lives.
  • Avatars may not be able to fully capture the complexity and nuance of human emotions and behaviors, reducing the potential for connection.
Photo by ERICK ALFREDO / Pexels
Source: Photo by ERICK ALFREDO / Pexels

Avatar is a science fiction film that was released in 2009, and a follow-up was recently released. The original film follows Jake as he becomes immersed in the world of Pandora, using a special avatar body that allows him to walk again. As he becomes more connected to the Na'vi and their way of life on Pandora, he finds himself caught in the middle of a conflict between the humans, who are trying to exploit Pandora's natural resources, and the Na'vi, who are fighting to protect their home.

Understanding Avatars and Their Meaning

The release of the new film is a great opportunity to understand what avatars are and what the concept means to our life. This is especially in light of the upcoming Metaverse.

An avatar is a digital representation of a person, typically in the form of a two-dimensional or three-dimensional graphic or video. Avatars are commonly used in online environments, such as video games, social media platforms, and virtual worlds, as a way for users to interact and communicate with each other.

In the context of the Metaverse, at least as Mark Zuckerberg and others see it, avatars can be customized to reflect the user's appearance, personality, or interests, and can be used to represent the user in various virtual environments. Avatars can be created and customized in a variety of ways, including through the use of special software tools, by selecting from a range of predefined options, or by uploading a photograph or other image.

The Social Meaning of Avatars

Avatars can have a variety of social meanings and functions, depending on the context in which they are used. In some cases, avatars are used as a way for people to present themselves online in a way that is different from their offline identity. This can allow users to experiment with different identities and roles, and to express themselves in ways that might not be possible in the physical world. Avatars can also be used as a way for people to connect with others who share similar interests or experiences and can facilitate the formation of online communities and social networks.

More controversially, avatars can also be used to reinforce certain social norms and expectations. For example, avatars in virtual worlds or online games may be required to conform to certain standards of appearance or behavior or may be subject to the same types of social hierarchies and power dynamics that exist in the physical world. As a result, the social meaning of avatars can be shaped by the specific context in which they are used, and can change over time as technology and social practices evolve.

The Implications of Avatars in Relationships, Love, and Connection

The romantic and interpersonal meanings of avatars may depend on the specific context in which they are used. In some cases, avatars may be used as a way for people to develop and maintain romantic relationships with others who are physically distant, such as through the use of virtual reality or online dating platforms. In these contexts, avatars may be used as a way for people to communicate and interact with each other in a more immersive and personal way.

At the same time, avatars can go further and be a substitute for real-life human connection and interaction. The use of avatars in romantic contexts may have limitations and challenges, but also some benefits.

On one side, avatars may not be able to fully capture the complexity and nuance of human emotions and behaviors, and may not be able to provide the same level of intimacy and connection as face-to-face interactions. It is also important to consider the potential risks and drawbacks of these types of relationships, such as the risk of becoming overly reliant on an avatar partner or the potential for misunderstandings or other communication issues.

On the other side, avatars may offer more flexibility in terms of communication and interaction, as users can choose when and how to interact with their avatar partner. Perhaps more importantly, avatars may provide an opportunity for individuals to experiment with different identities or roles, and to explore different aspects of their personality, sexuality, and romanticism. Finally, avatars may be able to offer emotional support and companionship to individuals who are isolated or who may have difficulty forming and maintaining relationships in the physical world.

These days, it seems that a relationship with an avatar is no longer science fiction. It is now becoming a reality that we must face. Educators, policymakers, and psychologists must prepare for a new era.


Kislev, Elyakim. 2022. Relationships 5.0: How AI, VR, and Robots Will Reshape Our Emotional Lives. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press US.

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