On another thread I was asked a question and since the topic was off topic for an off topic thread, I decided that the answer should have its own place because others might wish to join in.
So, what's the problem with IM?
So what's wrong with IM?
Nothing is wrong with IM the same way nothing is wrong with FaceBook, My Space or any of the other modern tools for communication and enhancement of life. The same goes for cellular phones, SMS (text messaging) and all the rest. I've been doing email for so long that I can't even tell you when I first sent a message to someone halfway around the world. I got my first modem in the early 80s so I remember having lengthy conversations about racing with guys from Australia, France, UK and even the USSR at 150 baud.
The problem I have with all of these things is the same I guess. It has to do with how folks use them.
Here we are on a website supposedly for the purpose of discussing marriages, troubles with those marriages and ways to overcome the troubles with those marriages. Almost no one here actually KNOWS anyone else that posts here. There are a few exceptions, folks who have been to a MB get together or live near enough that they have met to commiserate because they are both going through such similar trauma in their lives.
But part of what makes this a safe place to vent and share honestly is the fact that it is anonymous. We have nothing at stake in any of the relationships we have developed here or in any on-line community (again, with a handful or so of exceptions)
Because of what this site is all about if any of us began using these forums as a way to flirt, make suggestive (sexual content) comments or as a way to hook up the rest of the community would attack us like a swarm of locusts in a biblical plague. Rightly so since this site is not about hooking up but about saving, building and rebuilding marriages.
But a typical chat room is not under such constraints. People there don’t really know each other (sometimes they really do, but don’t know that they do because they are anonymous on the Internet) and so they use the forum as a way to live a fantasy life that can be very dangerous to marriage.
Now this is not only true of IM/Chat Rooms, but on-line gaming as well. In fact some on-line games exist solely for the purpose of allowing people to live a secret life in a cyber world where no one knows who or what they really are.
If you log onto a public adult chat room using the name “Veronica” it will take only seconds before several users with names like “loneyguy42” will begin sending you PMs and asking what you look like. And if you change your user name to “Bored Housewife” you will be getting propositions for everything from meeting for coffee to visits to the Falklands to spend a weekend of bliss as either a sex slave or a domme. The ironic part is that almost nobody has any intention of doing any of the things they discuss in these places. In fact, 5’2” blond haired 19-year-old “Veronica” might be 6’6”, 270 pounds and a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. And “lonelyguy42” might be a 24-year-old housewife who is up at three in the morning because her new baby isn’t sleeping all night yet.
But it’s all anonymous so everybody just considers it to be harmless fun and of no consequence at all.
The problem, as I see it is that it is a way to maintain a secret life that excludes those who know us in the real world. Our IRL spouses don’t have to know that we spend 3 hours every day having cyber-sex with anonymous members of both sexes.
But MOST folks don’t go to that extreme. Rather they allow themselves to be lured into an on-line relationship that begins as “harmless” flirting. This is even more dangerous since no one considers what is happening to be wrong. It’s only cyber, just flirting and “just friends” after all.
Then there are those who begin with IRL relationships of some kind. This can be work related, a bunch of kid’s soccer team families, church groups etc. But IM/FaceBook/MySpace begin to be used to have a secret relationship that is allowed to progress to the point where a serious EA has begun with little thought given to what is going on until the folks find themselves “in love” and ready to destroy two families because they have each met their “soul mate.”
Email, IM, on-line communities with discussion forums can all be used for this kind of life. But IM/Chat Rooms are especially dangerous IME because they are seldom used as methods of real communication. Rather they are used most often solely for the purpose of developing a fantasy relationship anonymously and maintaining a secret second life that even without any IRL meetings is detrimental to healthy marriage.
IM can be a valuable tool for those that need to be able to communicate quickly and silently across some distance. So can SMS. This makes it a good thing, IME, but for many, the technology allows for them to carry their secret fantasy life into every day real world environments. We can IM each other while still sitting at our desks. We can SMS each other while sitting beside our spouse in church and no one needs to know.
Partly because it can begin as “only cyber” and “just friends” and so easily get out of hand because it is kept a secret and we are hidden behind the mask of anonymity, many affairs, at least EAs, are born, live and die between upstanding pillars of the community who would never be seen entering a singles bar on Saturday night or be caught dead flirting with that hunky guy on the loading dock at work in real life.
The “meet friends” sites are even more dangerous to marriages IMO because they are created to make acquaintances and get to know people in the anonymous world of the Internet. A 40 something SAHM spends the afternoon at the gym so that she can look better, not for her husband, but so that she can post a picture of herself on FaceBook where she has a full dozen men under 25 on her friends list all telling her how sexy she already is. She orders a pizza and picks it up on the way home so her 47-year-old husband can eat as he heads off to the den to log in and see if he has gotten any new messages from that cute 19-year-old red head that asked to be added to his friends list on MySpace.
I guess for me it boils down to this; if you’re married, why do you need to meet more people? If you’re honest you must admit that it isn’t the same sex acquaintances you look forward to but the opposite sex friends you flirt with. There are forums out there for talking about knitting. There are message boards to discuss growing roses. Most state high school and even grade school athletic associations have websites to talk about your kids’ sports. So it can’t be about meeting people with common interests…
Marriages aren’t cell phones. You don’t get to upgrade every two years without penalty.
So why keep shopping for the next one?
And THAT is what IM/Chat/meeting sites get used for and very little else. They are ways to “hook up.” They have become dating sites...
And Intsant Messaging is the party line of choice...
All without any 900 numbers showing up on your phone bill to tip off your spouse.