Task 1.3 – Online dating is something that I can’t relate to as it is not something I have had any experience with. I have met many people and made friends online, but nothing further than that. However, my daughter met her boyfriend online through one of the game sites. That was around six years ago when they, and the other people in their group were about 11 years old. They have been girlfriend and boyfriend for about eighteen months now and he has spent most of the school holidays over the last year with us.
Their relationship progressed in a very similar way as Pascoe (2009) described. They started out messaging as a group through the game site as well as MSN, and then they started communicating exclusively through phone text messages, then phone calls. They had actually known each other online for over four years before they met offline. To date neither of them has shown any interest in anyone else and they get along very well because they have a lot of things in common. Unfortunately, things don’t work out well for everybody and I have read shocking stories over the last few years about some who get into bad situations.
Online infidelity is also something I have never experienced. I have engaged in ‘flirty’ banter on a message board that I frequent but nothing beyond that, and usually only with other members that I have known for a period time. Crossing the line would ruin message board friendships and damage offline relationships.
Public flirting online can be totally harmless. It is when the public flirting turns to private chat rooms and private messaging that the behaviour becomes more risky. According to internet addiction research by Young, O’Mara and Buchanan (2000) “…serious relationship problems were reported by fifty-three percent of the 396 case studies of Internet addicts interviewed”. These figures give some indication of the extent of online cheating and the way it has adversely affected a lot of relationships.
The research looked at the possibility that “…the anonymity of electronic transactions allows users to secretly engage in erotic chats without the fear of being caught by a spouse” (Young, O’Mara, & Buchanan, 2000). The use of anonymous screen names would provide a sense of security in regard to the risk of the behaviour being discovered and lessen the chances of being caught.
Another factor that may contribute to the temptation of indulging in an online affair may be geographical distance. The same research found that it was considered to be a harmless flirtation (Young, O’Mara, & Buchanan, 2000) if the people involved lived on opposite sides of the world. One woman felt that “…cybersex isn’t really cheating because of the lack of physical contact” (Young, O’Mara, & Buchanan, 2000) in an online relationship.
Being involved in an online relationship is like being in a fantasy world for some people. As with gaming, it can be used as a form of escape from the real world. Those who do take part in this behaviour feel that they can justify it by pretending it isn’t cheating because there is no physical contact. Cyber cheating is not real in a physical sense but it can cause as much damage as being involved in a real life affair.
Pascoe, C.J. (2009). Intimacy in Mizuko, I et. al. Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Retrieved from http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/book-intimacy
Young, K., O’Mara, J., & Buchanan, J. (2000). Cybersex and Infidelity Online: Implications for Evaluation and Treatment. Healthy Place. Retrieved from http://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/center-for-internet-addiction-recovery/cybersex-and-infidelity-online/menu-id-1105/