About 90 percent of Chinese university students regard "Internet love" as an effective way to satisfy their emotional needs, according to a survey by Northeast China Normal University.
The survey by the Changchun-based institute in the northeast Jilin Province polled 4,811 students at 10 universities across the country. It found that 18.4 percent of respondents admitted they had at least one Internet lover, the China Youth Daily reported. In addition, 38 percent revealed people around them were having on-line love affairs.
"Life is full of troubles. If there is someone on the Internet I can turn to, why not?" the survey quoted an anonymous student as saying.
"We have to face too many pressures when falling in love in the real world, but the inner-emotional needs can be better relieved through Internet relationships."
One out of five students thought on-line love was a good thing. More than half thought they might develop such a relationship when they were helpless, depressed or emotionally hurt.
In addition, 38 percent thought it was possible to develop a realistic relationship out of a virtual one.
"The Internet is becoming a much more popular medium for young people to express their feelings and satisfy their emotional needs," said Sun Caiping, a Northeast China Normal University professor.
While more than half remained indifferent to the issue, only 11.6 percent showed a negative attitude toward it. Their main reason was that Internet love didn't reach a good ending and made people lose a sense of responsibility.
The survey found boys were more likely to focus on appearance while most girls took talent, moral qualities and other characteristics into account.
The survey defined Internet love as an "emotionally-interdependent relationship two people develop through the medium of the Internet, including on-line relationships and real-life relationships that have evolved from virtual ones."
"Many university students are experiencing Internet relationships with worries and questions. If the issue is not properly handled, it may have negative effects on them," said Sun.