This discussion seems to come up time and again. Teenagers bullying each other, killing themselves over internet pranks. Nutjobs luring young (and not so young) women to isolated to places to seal them in storage barrels around their compounds. These things were happening before the internet of course, it just took more effort. The prey wouldn't go to you on its own. The nutjob had to be clever and crafty. Today's nutjob must only snag a pic off google search, post it on myspace, and the prey dives on it. A few paraphrased words from the latest emo song or the latest soap opera (do they still show those?) and you have a fine selection on planes heading your way.
But I didn't mean to talk about the sensationalized cases. I'm talking about the day-to-day ethernet existance of the average individual.
According to a Men's Health article (2010), whose readers are men and whose respondents, assumably, are men as well, only slightly under HALF of survey-takers believed it was perfectly fine to have an annonymous online chat sex pal while in a committed relationship and even more than that believe that it is perfectly fine to have an email flirtation. These are men who are married or in a committed relationship, or are answering the questions in anticipation of a future relationship, or perhaps in memory of a relationship that ended because of that very thing. And what about those friends who hear about these illicit affairs over the watercooler or via text messages? 2 in 5 of them would help the friend hide the affair.
According to Dr. Michael Adamse who wrote a book for other psychiatrists on helping people who were involved in internet affairs, 70% of time online is spent in chat rooms or sending emails. This was over ten years ago. Today, with the popularity of skype, twitter, forums, and other various websites cropping up on a daily basis, that percentage is probably much greater. Add to that text and multi-media messaging, internet on telephones so that people do not have to be at home in front of their own computer, cybercafes, laptops and wifi hotspots, internet instant messaging on cellphones, the ability to email on cellphones while stuck in traffic jams or sitting on public transportation, and those percentages skyrocket. It's staggering really the amount of time people in relationships (husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent/child, best friends, etc.) end up spending "away" from those they care about, even when they are sitting in the same room.
How often have you been sitting in a movie theatre behind a couple and both people are frantically texting to others explaining that they will not be around for the next two hours due to a movie, and when the movie is over, they immediately turn their phones on to check texts, twitter, email, and voicemail? I admit I do it, too. What about sitting in a restaurant with your family and sneak in a few of those texts here or there? Or the late-night text with a coworker or friend who needs help with a problem? Or exchanging contact info with the person from your group in that online video game?
What about trying to slip in that forbidden text message at work when no one is looking? And why not spend hours purusing the pics of that cute girl on your social network of choice? How about exchanging phone numbers for texting with the girl on facebook who really "gets you" the way your wife doesn't?
Dr. Michael Adamse, PhD says that of those 70% of email/chat room online time back over a decase ago, the vast majority were spent in romantic communications. How much now, in 2010? And how much of an increase since cellphones and internet have joined forces? Even McDonalds is a wifi hotspot! After that soccer game with the 10 year olds, when you are taking the winning team out for burgers and a cone, you can bring the laptop in from the car and get off a few of those important emails while the team celebrates.
According to DivorceMag, only 46% of men believe that online affairs should even be considered adultry. So almost half of men walking around out in the world believe that the little innocent exchange of "pics" through email and text message, exchanging the occassional "what are you wearing" phone call with someone they know from an online community, or watching a "special friend" strip over skype is perfectly harmless to his married life, to his wife, to the sanctity of his marriage, and to the mental health of his children.
Of course, 70% of married women never knew of their husband's affairs, so likely when the relationship begins to fall apart because the man stops having sex with his wife or moves into the computer room, emotionally divorcing himself from his family, the pending divorce will be blamed on "irreconcolible differences" or the wife's weight gain after having children or stress from being the only bread-winner in the family.
Are women innocent in all this? No. Of course not. I've known many women who have had affairs. But this isn't about women who have affairs. It is about men who complain about the time their wives spend doing frivolous things like walking, going to the gym, buying clothes, worrying over their looks, spending money every month getting their hair done, eyebrows waxed, nails done, and blimishes bleached. Why do they do all this? Because the older the women get, the younger the girls online become. It's about the millions of women who destroy their self-esteem in relationships where the man never tells them they look good unless they ask but will freely and gladly toss about compliments on the web as if there were no tomorrow.
It's about the women who have to look in the mirror every day and wonder what their partner sees in them, wonder why he doesn't do this thing or that thing in bed with them anymore, wonder why they can't lose the pregnancy weight no matter how many hours they spend doing sit-ups while the girl on their husband's myspace page has more children and looks like she hasn't eaten since 1994.
And, in some way, it's about this woman, who was a cheerleader, a ballerina, a girl full of life and talent who gave it all to an unworthy person who ripped her up and put her together again with faulty parts. Who has borderline personality disorder and who struggles every day to crawl out of the pit of statistics that she has reluctantly joined and become more than a divorced woman, a single mother, struggling to find herself and a place in a world that doesn't value women over 25 and over 115 pounds.