At least for Franz Kafka. From The Writer’s Almanac:
Kafka wrote a despairing letter to his girlfriend Felicia Bauer, in which he swore to write her no more. He was in the midst of a five-year-long effort to woo her, and it was an endeavor conducted almost entirely by letter-writing. He wrote to her more frequently that she to him, and this sometimes sent him into the throes of anguish and so he would send her letters like this one:
Dearest, what have I done that makes you torment me so? No letter again today, neither by the first mail nor the second.
You do make me suffer! While one written word from you could make me happy! You’ve had enough of me; there is no other explanation, it’s not surprising after all; what is incomprehensible, though, is that you don’t write and tell me so.
If I am to go on living at all, I cannot go on vainly waiting for news of you, as I have done these last few interminable days. But I no longer have any hope of hearing from you.
I shall have to repeat specifically the farewell you bid me in silence.
I should like to throw myself bodily on this letter, so that it cannot be mailed, but it must be mailed.
I shall expect no further letters.
As it turns out, his farewell of silence did not last long. A few weeks later, the insomniac Kafka wrote to her in the dead of winter’s night:
Well dearest, the doors are shut, all is quiet, I am with you once more. … I was after you continuously this afternoon, in vain of course. As a matter of fact not quite in vain, for I constantly kept as close as possible to Frau Friedmann, because after all she was close to you for quite a time, because you say Du to each other, and because she happens to be the possessor of letters from you, which I certainly begrudge her. But why doesn’t she say a word about you while I keep staring at her lips, ready to pounce on the first word? Have you stopped writing to each other? Perhaps she knows nothing new about you? But how is this possible! And if she knows nothing new, why doesn’t she talk about you, why doesn’t she at least mention your name, as she used to, when she was around before?
But no, she won’t; instead, she keeps me hanging about, and we talk about incredibly unimportant things, such as Breslau, coughing, music, scarves, brooches, hairstyles, Italian holidays, sleighrides, beaded bags, stiff shirts, cufflinks, Herbert Schottlander, the French language, public baths, showers cooks, Harden, economic conditions, travelling by night, the Palace Hotel, Schreiberhau, hats, the University of Breslau, relatives — in short about everything under the sun, but the only subject that has, unfortunately, some faint association with you consists of a few words about Pyramidos and aspirin; it is cause for wonder why I pursue this subject for so long, and why I enjoy rolling these two words around my tongue. But really, I am not satisfied with this as the sole outcome of an afternoon, because for hours on end my head hums with the desire to hear the name Felice. Finally, by force, I direct the conversation to the railway connections between Berlin and Breslau, at the same time giving her a menacing look — nothing.”
Franz Kafka and Felice Bauer were engaged twice but never married. Kafka would once say: “Letter writing is an intercourse with ghosts, not only with the ghost of the receiver, but with one’s own, which emerges between the lines of the letter being written … Written kisses never reach their destination, but are drunk en route by these ghosts.”
Letter writing = intercourse with ghosts. I feel the same exact way about online dating.