Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Facebook Didn't Wreck Your Relationship...

In my particular line of work, I get to enjoy a lot of daytime television programming.  Perhaps "enjoy" is a bit strong... let's just say the TV is on and I see what appears on the screen and sometimes I even pay attention to it.

One common theme on daytime talk shows is infidelity in relationships.  Now, obviously infidelity has existed long before social media or the internet, but the rise of the popularity of Facebook and other social media has created a whole new level of access for people looking for love both in and out of a "committed" relationship.  More and more, arguments on the daytime talk shows about cheating spouses involve a jealous boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife gaining access to their partners Facebook or email account and intercepting clandestine correspondence between their significant other and a scheming other man or woman.  This evidence is later brought out to the delight of the studio audience and viewers at home and, typically, there is a point where Facebook is criticized for wrecking relationships.

To me, arguing that Facebook wrecks relationships is like saying guns kill people.  Specifically, pro-gun people always say "guns don't kill people, people kill people".  The logic, of course, is that a gun just sits there doing nothing and harming no one until a man or woman picks it up, points it at another person and pulls the trigger.  In the same way, Facebook doesn't wreck relationships, it just sits there doing nothing and harming no one until a man or woman picks it up and uses it to facilitate an affair.

See, Facebook gives you the tools to more easily interact with someone you want to cheat on your partner with, but it doesn't make you do it.  The ultimate choice to seek out this relationship is yours and no one else's.

Now, certainly the growing proliferation of social media makes it easier for people to contact each other, both openly and privately.  Our world is connected now in a way it never has before and with the recent record-breaking Facebook IPO, it's clear that social media is far more than a passing fad, it's a revolution in global interaction.  Today friends can reconnect from all over the world, family can stay in touch from across the country and, yes, men and women with wandering eyes can hook up with old flames from high school, new friends of friends or even anonymous contacts met at random.  There are entire websites devoted to helping people in relationships find outside sexual partners now.  

Yes, the ability to pursue an extramarital affair is easier than ever thanks to the internet and social media, however the choice to do so still ultimately rests on the individual.  I mean, the ability to buy anything you want, anytime you want is now easier than ever too thanks to Amazon.com and other online retailers, but the country isn't going bankrupt as a result of spending money non-stop on things people can't afford simply because they could do it online instead of in a store.

Social media is an important tool.  Thanks to Facebook, we are connected to relevant social movements like Occupy Wall Street, we are made aware of atrocities being committed in other countries that would have otherwise been kept quiet by totalitarian governments and activists are able to connect with an audience like never before.  

However, much like the internet itself, social media has been ultimately corrupted as a means to facilitate the delivery of porn and sexuality in new and exciting ways.

For every one person who uses Facebook to try and affect social change, there are probably 500 people using it to try and get their senior prom date to meet them somewhere for coffee and a blow job.  This is just human nature, people like to fuck and the temptation to use this technology to make accomplishing that goal exceedingly easy is difficult to resist.  Many of the deterrents to cheating the old fashioned way are gone now.

Back before the internet and social media, people had to try to find partners to cheat with through face-to-face interaction, they had to risk phone calls that could be overheard, they had to spend a lot of time away from their spouses sweet-talking potential new sexual partners.  In short, it wasn't nearly as easy to find, cultivate and harvest some side action before the internet.  So yes, social media has made it easier to cheat and that has caused people who otherwise wouldn't have the access or the opportunity to explore an affair to be tempted in ways that would have been much easier to avoid or ignore before, but it doesn't make a faithful spouse into a cheater.

Ultimately, there are people who will blame Facebook for why their husband or wife cheated on them or left them for another, but they're directing their anger and frustration at the wrong culprit.  Many times, Facebook is the scapegoat not for the cheater, but for the person who was cheated on.  It's easier to blame Facebook than to look in the mirror and ask what role you might have played yourself in the situation you currently find yourself in.  If your husband or wife wants to cheat on you, they're going to do it.  If you close their Facebook, they'll use email.  If you turn off the internet, they'll use the phone.  If you shut off the phone too, they'll cheat with a co-worker or classmate, they'll use the computer at the library, they'll find a way to do it even if they have to jump through ridiculous hoops.  This is the way it's always been and always will be.  Trying to prevent your spouse from cheating by isolating them from the outside world isn't going to stop them from cheating, it's only going to create even more resentment between the two of you that will just serve to fuel your spouses desire to cheat.  In short, pushing a spouse away from all temptations to cheat usually only serves to push them further in a cheating mentality as they seek the company of a partner who doesn't treat them like an adversary to be conquered and controlled.

Social media has also made it a lot easier for couples to "stalk" each other and for possessive husbands and wives to monitor every minute of their spouses daily lives.  We can track location and activity, we can tell which of our friends are online and where they are and we can even track their activity to create a frame of reference to hold them to.  For example, a jealous husband sees that his wife made a trip to Starbucks in 15 minutes, so every future trip his wife makes there will be held to that 15 minute time frame with any significant deviance providing evidence of potential infidelity.

At the end of the day, any person who spends so much of their own time monitoring and obsessing over the online activities of their spouse is wasting their life.  Stalking a spouse is the act of an insecure and selfish person.  Trust isn't a guarantee, it's a gamble.  You trust someone to be honest and faithful but you always assume the risk that they might not be.  You can't spend your life controlling your spouse's every action to make sure they don't violate your trust because doing so completely violates their trust.  Infidelity plagues even the strongest emotionally-satisfying relationships, you can't stalk someone into being faithful, you can't intimidate someone into being trustworthy and you can't guilt someone into innocence.  

Likewise, any person who spends all of their time on Facebook trying to set up affairs with other men or women needs to step back and evaluate their own relationship and find out why they are compelled to constantly seek something outside their relationship that they believe is lacking within it.  I have often given this word of advice to friends of mine "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it."  Now, I have said that for a variety of situations, but specifically on the subject of cheating - or through one's actions enabling another to cheat - I believe it is apropos.  Just because you could hook up with an old flame without your spouse finding out doesn't mean you should do it.  Maybe just knowing you could if you wanted to can be satisfaction enough without taking a step that could end up costing you your relationship?  Even people who claim to be in the most open-minded relationships can find themselves experiencing jealousy and feelings of insecurity and inadequacy when faced with the possibility of their spouse finding an extramarital sexual partner.  I have seen marriages fall apart when the decision to have an open marriage soon dissolved into jealousy and bitterness.

I guess what I'm saying is, if you're having problems in your relationship, don't blame Facebook, don't blame email, don't blame the internet or cell phones or ashleymadison.com.  Relationships are built on the people who enter into them and they're maintained only through the positive efforts of both partners.  A little communication and open honesty can save you a whole lot of wasted time stalking each other and the hurt feelings that inevitably result.

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