Friday, April 03, 2009

The Internet, chat rooms, and marital infidelity

Probably the most read and most commented post in this blog is Adultery, concubinage, psychological violence and marital infidelity.” Considering that marriage and the family are Biblical institutions, it is very tragic that extra-marital affairs are rampant. Please read my Salt and Light blog posts which discuss the statistics, causes and consequences of extra-marital affairs:

Profile of Filipino users of the Internet

In a recent study, Yahoo! and consumer information group Nielsen revealed that:
  1. There are 20 million Filipino users of the Internet.
  2. The majority of Filipino Internet users range in ages from 10 to 29.
  3. Email (63%), Instant Messaging (63%) and Search (58%) are the most common online activities for Filipino internet users followed by searches (58%), playing games online (53%), social network site (51%), download/upload of digital photos (42%), internet radio (28%), down-/upload music files (25%), read news online (24%), internet SMS (23%), online banking (3%), purchased products online (3%).
  4. Social networking is a key online activity with 51 % of the survey respondents claiming to have visited a social networking site in the past month.
How the Internet is impacting society

If you want to learn more about how the Internet is impacting society, please read “
The Psychology of Cyberspace” by John Suler, Ph.D. Department of Psychology, Science and Technology Center, Rider University. Among Suler’s interesting articles are:
  • The Online Disinhibition Effect: While online some people open up to reveal all sorts of personal feelings and thoughts. Others act out inappropriately in ways they never would in-person. This article explains six factors that contribute to this "disinhibition" effect: dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimizing authority, as well as how online disinhibition and suspicion are related to the altering of self-boundary. This revision includes a section about whether the "true self" appears online as a result of disinhibition.

  • The Basic Psychological Features of Cyberspace: These features can make online encounters very different than those in the "real" world: reduced sensations, texting, identity flexibility, altered perceptions, equalized status, transcended space, temporal flexibility, social multiplicity, recordability, media disruption . This revision mentions current communication technologies and emphasizes these psychological features as elements of a conceptual model for a psychology of cyberspace.

  • The Final Showdown Between In-Person and Cyberspace Relationships: We develop relationships by hearing, seeing, feeling, intuiting, even smelling and tasting (!) each other. Cyberspace and in-person encounters can be quite different on these dimensions of relating. Those differences have a dramatic effect on friendships and romances. This revision includes minor modifications throughout the article, as well as a new section on defending text and the body.

  • Do Boys Just Wanna Have Fun?: Gender-Switching in Cyberspace: Why do people switch their gender in cyberspace? Is it possible to detect someone who is faking his gender?

  • Mom, Dad, Computer: Transference Reactions to Computers: People may not even realize it, but they may be reacting to their computer as if it is their mother, father, or sibling. This article explores the various twists and turns in people's transference reactions to computers and cyberspace.

  • The Black Hole of Cyberspace: The internet is supposed to respond to us. But sometimes it doesn't. When we receive no reply (especially to an e-mail message), that black hole can draw out of us all sorts of anxieties and insecurities.

  • Transient and Long Term Online Relationships: The interactive power of the internet gives everyone an opportunity to meet people - sometimes in transient encounters, sometimes in long term friendships and romances.
Bored, lonely housewives and the temptations of online affairs

While the Internet does provide a lot of benefits for students, professionals, government and business, there are dangers that can entangle any person. Several people have e-mailed me about their marriages having been rocked or completely broken up because the husband or the wife had an extra-marital affair with someone he or she met in a chat room.

Probe Ministries, in an article by Kerby Anderson, points out a danger that lonely and bored housewives are falling into, that is, online affairs or the allure of cyber-relationships. I have provided emphasis by boldfacing and sub-headings to Anderson's article:
Peggy Vaughn is the author of “The Monogamy Myth” and also serves as an expert for America Online on problems caused by infidelity. She predicts that one “role of the Internet in the future will be as a source of affairs.” She is writing a second book on the subject of adultery and says she could base half of it just on the letters she receives from people who started an affair online.

What is an online affair?

An online affair (or cyberaffair) is an intimate or sexually explicit communication between a married person and someone other than their spouse that takes place on the Internet. Usually this communication takes place through an online service such as America Online or CompuServe. Participants usually visit a chat room to begin a group conversation and then often move into a one-to-one mode of communication. Chat room categories range from “single and liking it” to “married and flirting” to “naked on the keyboard.”

How women get caught up in online affairs

Women in a chat room are often surprised at what develops in a fairly short period of time. At first the conversation is stimulating, though flirtatious. Quickly, however, women are often confronted with increasingly sexual questions and comments. Even if the comments don’t turn personal, women find themselves quickly sharing intimate information about themselves and their relationships that they would never share with someone in person. Peggy Vaughn says, “Stay-at-home moms in chat rooms are sharing all this personal stuff they are hiding from their partners.” She finds that the intensity of women’s online relationships can “quickly escalate into thinking they have found a soulmate.”

Online affairs differ from physical world affairs in some ways, but are similar in others. Cyberaffairs are based upon written communication where a person may feel more free to express herself anonymously than in person. Frequently the communication becomes sexually graphic and kinky in ways that probably would not occur if a real person were hearing these comments and could act on them. Participants in an online affair will often tell their life stories and their innermost secrets. They will also create a new persona, become sexually adventurous, and pretend to be different than they really are.
The quest for a pure, passionate marriage

Please take time to read my Salt and Light blog post titled And the bride wore white.” In that post, I discussed among others “Pursuing the Pearl” (a book by Dannah Gresh). In this book, Dannah discusses what she calls “The Enemy’s Fake Pearls” which are [1] status and stuff; [2] social acceptance; [3] giving up and starting over; [4] pride and dreams.

Dannah warns her readers: “Sexual impurity is a zero tolerance arena. You are on shaky ground if there are emotional bonds being created between you and another man (or your husband and another woman).” Dannah explains that these bonds begin with little things like:
  • Innocently having lunch alone with a man
  • Seeking advice from a man about personal issues, especially marital issues
  • Seeking or accepting frequent praise or affirmation from the same man
  • Being or becoming comfortable with being alone in an office or a home together
  • Intentionally seeking out time to be with this man
  • Manipulating your schedule to see him
  • Spending time fantasizing about him
What’s my point here? If you are a husband or wife who values your marriage and family, stay away from chat rooms!