I'm one of those people who doesn't regard BDSM as being a more intellectual form of sex, or a superior sort of interaction. It's a relationship. Rules of emotion still apply. For that reason, examining long distance relationships of all kinds can be informative.
Consider Manti Teo. A gifted Notre Dame football linebacker, he fell in love with a girl he never met. They had a many months long distance relationship. It turned out the girl didn't exist. She was an elaborate fiction created by a male acquaintance of Manti's. That doesn't make Manti gullible, it makes him a person of imagination and faith. His victimizer (aka a "catfish") was skilled and sensitive, but fundamentally cruel.
Exploitation in long distance relationships is a favorite topic of Dr. Phil. He focuses on women who are highly susceptible to flattery and attention. The catfish ensnares by setting up a fake online profile with stolen pictures, and sends the woman poems plagiarized from the Internet. These desperate women respond with love--and money. Long-distance exploitation happens in the kink world, too. They're called financial Dommes or loser Doms, not catfish. Perhaps my attitude is elitist, but a sub shouldn't send a Dominant money. Ever. A true Dominant will have his or her affairs in order. Why surrender control to someone who is unethical? Why submit to someone who doesn't have their act together?
Maintaining long-distance relationships of any kind is tough, even for established couples. My husband and I once endured an 18 month separation. I'd moved cross country to the East coast to take a temporary job. He remained on the West coast. The whole experience was pretty awful. We were dirt poor and couldn't afford lots of phone calls. But we were committed to the relationship. We persevered. Fast forward a few years. The Internet came along. I experimented with cybersex. I had a blast, never fucking the same person twice. I had zero emotional connection to these guys (if they were guys). To my mind, cybersex was no different than improv, or enjoying a hot romance novel. But I soon discovered that my husband viewed my erotic entertainment as cheating. He certainly thought online was real. Of course I quit. As a side note, my frustrated desire to create cybersex scenes may well be the reason I write erotic romance now. It's a good thing my husband doesn't believe writing stories for a non-interactive audience is cheating.
Though I don't have any solutions on how to maintain online interactions, they can absolutely be real. They are as real as the care, sincerity, creativity and devotion of the participants. Kink or no.