EDITED EX­TRACT

CityPress - - Voices -

[Online] is where you are play­ing, flirt­ing, fall­ing in and out of love, chat­ting, sex­ting and dream­ing – with your part­ner and with other peo­ple. Of the nearly seven bil­lion peo­ple in the world, just over two bil­lion are online, a 484% in­crease over the last decade.

Online dat­ing is a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar-a-year in­dus­try. Online dat­ing sites now earn about $2.1 bil­lion a year in rev­enue in the USA. Af­ter the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the World Trade Cen­ter in New York City, online match­mak­ing saw record growth.

The temp­ta­tion and drive, the cu­rios­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with such a huge pool of peo­ple, makes us crazy. So crazy that one-third of you is us­ing so­cial media to de­velop new re­la­tion­ships. Whether you are mar­ried or in another form of sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship, you are drawn by your need for in­ti­macy, sex­ual sat­is­fac­tion and dis­trac­tion into this play­ground of plenty. The ques­tion I’ve asked is, what is cy­ber-in­fi­delity? And how, if at all, is it dif­fer­ent from face-to­face in­fi­delity?

Think about this: you are both in your early 20s, vir­gins on your wed­ding night. Sex is im­ma­ture, am­a­teur. Three years later, you dis­cover that she has had an “emo­tional” re­la­tion­ship with a col­league. She vows they did not have sex but you sus­pect that they did. A few months later, you push the fuck-it but­ton and have a brief sex­ual fling with a col­league. I am sure ev­ery­one agrees that this can be de­fined as in­fi­delity. There were “real” peo­ple in­volved, and “real” bod­ily flu­ids were ex­changed.

Now con­sider this: you are at­tached, in a sig­nif­i­cant re­la­tion­ship or mar­riage, and you are on Face­book with a friend. The con­ver­sa­tion turns from cy­ber­chat to cy­ber­sex. You re­spond with much seat-wet­ting. You’re tweet­ing some­one you ad­mire or fol­low and the tone changes from friendly to in­vi­ta­tional and even­tu­ally to se­duc­tive. Bulge in your pants.

You’re spend­ing time watch­ing porn and jerk­ing off. You join www.ash­ley­madi­son.com, a dat­ing site for mar­ried peo­ple, be­cause you feel emo­tion­ally ne­glected. Are you cheat­ing?

Mil­lions of peo­ple are us­ing the very tech­nol­ogy that you as a mar­ried or at­tached per­son are us­ing in these sit­u­a­tions to con­nect with peo­ple in in­ti­mate ways. From Face­book to What­sApp to Twit­ter to dat­ing sites and porn, tech­nol­ogy is se­duc­ing you into new and in­ter­est­ing re­la­tion­ships and at­tach­ments. Many – yes, many – of these online con­nec­tions are se­cre­tive. They may even be con­sid­ered in­fi­delity. In­fi­delity is breach­ing the prin­ci­pal oaths and vows of sex­ual fi­delity, monogamy and com­mit­ment that you have taken. Prac­tise this online and it’s called cy­ber-in­fi­delity.

The prob­lem with cy­ber-in­fi­delity is that many of you do not con­sider it cheat­ing – and thus end up badly hurt.

The dis­cov­ery of any cheat­ing forces a cou­ple to re­con­sider their re­la­tion­ship. Some­how cy­ber-in­fi­delity takes this a step fur­ther. It is amor­phous; it is so easy, ac­ces­si­ble, af­ford­able, anony­mous to have cy­ber­sex, to en­gage in flir­ta­tion or sex­ting, or to send a Snapchat via tech­nol­ogy.

What is cy­ber-in­fi­delity and what do we do with it? Is it re­ally cheat­ing or merely recre­ational fun? Does it vi­o­late the fun­da­men­tal val­ues and prin­ci­ples upon which your mar­riage is based? Should you sim­ply be flex­i­ble and in­cor­po­rate this new form of re­lat­ing into your mod­ern mar­riage? In this cy­ber age, what do we re­ally want out of in­ti­macy and sig­nif­i­cant re­la­tion­ships?

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