Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Twirting and Facecheating?

Since the advent of e-mail, texting, IM and social networking sites, people have been moaning and fretting over the possibility of increased flirting, emotional affairs and - gasp! - sexual escapades.

Does this reaction stem from an actual upswing in cheating, or from a suddenly more public and accessible forum for tendencies and behaviors that have always existed?  In other words, do you really think you or people you know are more likely to flirt and cheat now than they would be in an environment free of electronic media?  I do not! I would not!  And neither would the people I know.  At least not anymore than we would were we living in say, the 18th century. 

The indiscretions of public figures have fueled this critical commentary over the use of electronic media for social purposes.  Mark Sanford is an obvious recent example.  Perhaps a story thrown in from a friend of a friend who claims that his cousin left his wife for a woman he met on MySpace may have added to the uproar.  This is great fodder for psychologists, journalists, and all who peddle social commentary.  You have undoubtedly seen evidence of this chatter from your own sources, but if not, here's a frivolous little link for you:  There is even a hyperlink on this page entitled "Text message flirting do's and don'ts".  Really?? Come on...

Are we, as a culture, truly so obsessed with policing our verbal interactions that it has come to this level of pettiness?  Does this sort of attitude reflect on how comfortable we feel with ourselves?  Is it another example of self-consciousness taken to extremes?  I think so.  How often do we say something casually that we later re-examine?  I know I do it a lot!  Before computers ever existed, people said, "I put my foot in my mouth".  We have always been self-conscious to a certain extent in our communication with one another, but I see no reason to amplify that tendency just because texts, e-mails and online posts are "print media".  I have heard people say, "Once it's in print you can't take it back!"  Oh, really?  Then how do so many contracts end up in court?  How are divorces possible?  How do teenagers break up through a text message and get back together the next day on Facebook?  Why is literature the subject of interpretation and open discussion for centuries after it is published?  It is true that in a legal sense a written contract is of more weight than a verbal one, but is a wink or a slap on the bum more casual than "xoxo" in a text message?  I think not.  That's the real point I'm driving at.  Spoken words and physical touch hold much more sway over sexual behavior than written media ever could.  Why obsess over the do's and don'ts of electronic communication anymore than we would over our daily physical interactions? 

If people with poor impulse control want to cheat, they are going to find a way to do it, with or without a Blackberry or Iphone.  Are any of you fans of the show "Mad Men"?  The content of that show is 50% extramarital affairs and it is set in the 1960's.  I actually admire the show's realism in its depiction of marital angst and the human tendency to seek out greener pasture.  Most people aren't proud of this type of behavior, but hey, it goes back to the Bible!  David and Bathsheba?  And how many wives did Solomon have?  Anyhoo...

I fear that obsessing over and policing casual interaction between ourselves, whether it be physical or electronic, is more likely to lead to cheating than is having a neutral attitude about it all.  After all, doesn't temptation start in the mind?  People become tempted to sin when they find themselves thinking overly much about a certain activity or person.  Let's keep the neurosis to a minimum, shall we?  So you spent a little too long talking to your opposite sex co-worker about his personal life at lunch.  So what?  Let it go and stop thinking about making out with him!  Bonding happens.  Maybe you e-mailed your ex about a personal problem you knew they would understand.  Again, so what?  Do we really need to live our lives in such a rigid way, fearing that at every turn lies a carnal temptation?  This type of attitude plagues a lot of people who suffer from religious dysfunction.  Ironically, they are the ones who always end up cheating!  Does Ted Haggard ring a bell? 

Just for fun, and to close, have a look at this list of evangelist sexual scandals:

Now how much do you really feel like reigning in your Facebook activity?  Wanna spend some more time examining your texting etiquette?  Just try not to get too worked up about it. 

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