AFRICANGLOBE – A few days ago, I switched on to a radio stations and came across an interesting debate on relationships and the use of social media.
During the phone-in programme the radio announcer sought to know how many women or men would allow their partners to go through their messages on social platform WhatsApp, without flinching.
The responses were rather shocking, to say the least. Men and women across ages, irrespective of their marital status, boldly declared that their spouses or their partners were not supposed to open, read or reply to messages on the social network because it is a private platform and should remain as such.
The shocking responses were coming from married people who said their partners had no right to read their personal messages, arguing that being married does not mean one should cede his or her right to privacy.
Inasmuch as they wanted to love and share with their partners whatever the contents of the social interactions, they argued that they also had to respect the privacy of the sender, who often assumed that all the messages were only for the recipient and no one else – including the dame and the hubby.
There is no doubt that social media have revolutionised the way people manage their work, family and relationships by the click of a button.
Unlike yesteryear when mankind had to make do with a drumbeat to alert the whole village of a pending event, or send a letter to communicate with a loved one living in a faraway place, that can now be done at the click of a button, thanks to technology and other innovations that are coming along with it.
Even 10 years ago, people always came together, collaborated through church groups and PTAs, told stories over coffee or over the backyard fence, chatting much about nothing, but now social media allows people to do what they have always done faster and better and in privacy, should they choose to do so.
Social media is also now being used to browse for engagement opportunities and increase participation through building new social norms, something that was not possible a few years back.
However, it appears that the same social media that were fundamental in building relations are fast eroding them, particularly the marriage institution amid revelations that couples now use the very same platform to flirt, cheat and philander.
People are now letting loose and choosing a little “community” where they associate freely with whomever they want, regardless of background, age or location.
The use of profiles, videos and pictures that are at times choreographed, make people interesting, available and attractive.
There is no denying that social media are conducive to mischief. They are awash with temptations and people looking for a “little fun”.
From the stories that the media are reporting on on a daily basis, it has become clear that couples with the propensity to cheat are finding it easier to do so with the help of the internet, social networking, especially with the smartphones.
Those suspecting that their partners are cheating on them say they can now tell by looking at the frequency at which their partners are always “online”, and the number of passwords used to lock the gadget, to ascertain that he or she is indeed cheating.
But can you use that as a basis of cheating, or should people in relationships blame technology for infidelity?
Would people in relationships expect their partners to communicate with them alone and no one else, and can technology actually make it easier for couples to cheat on each other?
A world renowned clinical psychologist, Karen Nimmo from New Zealand, said it appears that the majority of people with a propensity to cheat were finding it easier with the help of social networking.
“Many people go through other’s phones and check what they have been up to. And there are also the motional affairs people conduct. They might not be having sex but they are only a step or two from it,” she was quoted as saying in one of her sessions.
For me it would be so unfair to blame technology for infidelity, or fuelling in, whatever comes first, because infidelity is triggered and enabled by many factors. Even before the introduction of smartphones and social networking, people were already cheating.
Infidelity is as old as humankind, and can be traced back to Gospel of John (John7 verse 53-8) when there was a confrontation between Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisee over whether a woman caught in an act of adultery ought to be stoned.
Unfaithful people will always find an excuse to cheat on their partners, whether they are in happy unions, are well taken care of financially and have the whole clan eating from their palms.
We still have people in our midst who have never had a phone in their lives, but will still cheat on their partners. In any relationship, it would therefore be folly and misguided to base one’s trust on a gadget, and the frequency at which one uses it, as a basis for cheating.
If he says no one touches his phone, does that mean that he is hiding something away from you? How far can couples share information, secrets and events on what goes on in their lives?
There is something pure and romantic about the idea of sharing everything, and having no secrets from one another. But it’s romantic the same way that Romeo and Juliet is romantic, in a tragic, horrible, everyone-is-miserable-and-dies-at-the-end kind of way.
Relationships should be based on mutual respect, love, humility and trust. People who don’t trust each other have no reason to live together anyway.
By: Ruth Butaumocho