Meeting after 20 years

Ritesh received a message on LinkedIn from a woman called Nisha. She had messaged saying that she is his classmate from college and has been looking for him for a while wondering what he was up to. He was thrilled to connect, even though he barely interacted with Nisha then. Ritesh, now 42, runs a successful business and lives with his wife, whom he has an excellent relationship with, and two daughters. 

After the initial LinkedIn chat, they exchanged phone numbers and used WhatsApp for their occasional chatting. Nisha was more expressive and soon started sending love quotes and love songs, even occasionally ending her chats with “I have missed you”.

Nisha was married and had a college-going daughter. Her husband kept busy with his job and travelled frequently, leaving Nisha with plenty of free time. 

Ritesh did not pay much attention initially, but overtime, Nisha grew on him. In particular, when he was hospitalised for a fracture and had time to engage with friends. Nisha called several times a day to enquire about his progress and they often talked for hours. Ritesh appreciated her care and attention and also started sharing more about his life. 

A few weeks later Nisha proposed an in-person meeting. They met for coffee. Nisha looked stunning in her westernised clothes and signs of any ageing was barely visible. Ritesh involuntarily compared Nisha to his wife who was out of shape and always busy with her job and the kids. He felt thrilled that he was given so much attention by such an attractive woman. 

They talked about their lives, the goods-and-the-bads and how life has lacked excitement. They agreed to meet again, and met frequently over lunches and dinners over the month - sharing their deepest secrets, aspirations and desires. Once separated, they missed each other and kept in touch on WhatsApp, sharing photos, songs and the deepest feelings. 

Respective spouses noticed the changes—Nisha and Ritesh were always happy, humming songs, and dressing well. Once Ritesh’s phone rang as he was watching TV with his wife. He rushed to the phone to mute the call, creating suspicion in his wife. This simple act of muting the call led to enquiries and arguments, leading to Ritesh revealing his friendship with Nisha. Ritesh’s wife called Nisha and humiliated her with foul words and also informed Nisha’s husband. 

Soon, both the families were on the brink of breaking down. The respective spouses agreed to not divorce in the interest of the children but the marital relationships were ruined for good. Sadness and anger persisted for years and their lives never went back to the olden days. 

Both Nisha and Ritesh desired emotional connection that was missing in their lives.

__________

 

 


“Give me your password”

Shruti (26) and Anand (30) have been married for about three years. They met via the matrimonial site Shadi.com. After the initial due-diligence, both checked the profiles on Facebook and Instagram of each other to learn more. Shruti discovered that Anand was connected to several mysterious accounts titled ‘Rocky Babes’, ‘Lolita’, and ‘JennyRafter’—all featuring naked women. She did not like this about Anand, but decided to ignore as Anand had been single so far. 

After marriage too, Shruti noticed that Anand spends more than two to three hours daily on social sites, even after his hectic job. She was uncomfortable but did not bring it up—in any case, he was not hiding it from her. He even encouraged her to join him in viewing these social media sites. One night they were watching a few funny videos together, and when she returned from a quick bathroom trip, Anand had moved on to watching photos of naked and semi-naked girls. She felt a sense of hostility towards Anand, along with embarrassment, and shock. Anand assured that it was a feed from the account he has been following for years. Declared that these pages meant nothing to him and he would be fine to unsubscribe if she insisted. 

She said nothing but would look over his shoulder when he went online. He unsubscribed from the distinctly provocative pages but continued to follow individual accounts that also published indecent photos. Anand frequently chatted with these women, which outraged Shruti, and he was the one to initiate the chat sessions. Most of his chats were with women, in particular beautiful women. With strong disgust and anger, she also felt inadequate as these online women were significantly better looking than her. She started going to gym and also registered for hiking and rafting trips, which was certainly not her cup of tea.

She wanted to be an ‘understanding’ wife and did not wish to nag him—in fact, she had willingly watched porn with him, so the issue was not of watching nudity but Anand’s obsessions with engaging with these women online. She thought that no person should be forced to share their spouse's attention with others. 

With uncontrolled anger and a sense of belittlement, she barged into the bedroom one evening and demanded that Anand share passwords of all the social accounts, and that she wanted to monitor and control his interactions. 

Anand was perplexed as he believed his actions were normal and well within the framework of a healthy marriage and he was not connected to anyone offline. whereas Shruti felt such interests outside marriage was a violation. 

________

 

 “Go have an affair”

One of my clients, Randhir, came furious complaining about his wife’s behaviour. “My wife constantly finds faults in everything I do and accuses me of being an irresponsible husband. It is unnerving being around her, always being worried about the next accusation and insult”. He insisted that he works hard to do everything right—one, because he cares for her, and two, for fear of accusations. She also shouted frequently at him. 

He is a clerk and his wife, Sushma, with a master’s degree, used to be a school teacher but is now a stay-at-home mother. They have two school-going children.

Sushma, 38, is active on Facebook almost the entire day, taking breaks in between to attend to her daily needs. She has joined several feminist groups and has many online friends who subscribe to similar perspective. These online connections constantly badmouth their husbands for their lack of attention, for diminishing sexual interest and often their physical appearance. While she chose to give up her job voluntarily, she complained of being in a ‘house prison’ as a housewife.

Randhir, under pressure to earn more, goes to homes to deliver tuitions to young students, and returns home only at 9 pm. He often has to eat alone as the wife has already eaten, or does not leave her social media interactions for dinner. Her feminists friends empathise with her based on the complaints, and encourage her to have an affair for seeking satisfaction—both emotional bonding and physical intimacy. Some insist that such loser husbands must be punished. 

She felt empowered by these suggestions and was encouraged to mistreat her husband constantly. Randhir was at loss of words as he could not relate to the complaints. He always wished to have a loving voice welcoming him home after he returned exhausted. On a simple status update telling ….She is getting bored at home and wish to work again...Advice she received from her friends included,

Find someone better and leave him. You deserve to be loved... 

Hide some money for yourself. Who knows when you might need it... 

How awful your husband is! Forcing you to raise his children...

Oh dear, your situation is terrible, you need to set your husband right...

Show him his worth, leave him and take kids with you...

Hey, no need to think. Just go have an affair.

______

Analysis

 

We use social media platforms to educate ourselves, to build networks and find career opportunities. We connect with people and groups across the globe with similar interests and share our thoughts and insights online. While these social sites are becoming crucial media-outlets for information and entertainment, there is also a flip side of the coin. 

Joyful social media interactions produce Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is used to exchange messages between nerve cells. Dopamine helps us feel pleasure and is released when we experience positive interactions, including having sex, playing sports, eating chocolates and when we get encouraging response to our comments and posts on social media. Such pleasures compel us to repeat the action; it works the same as any substance addiction. Ironically most of the time the addicts are aware of their addiction and occasionally feel guilty too but they cannot resist the temptation of being online.

The stories I described above provide us with deep insights into the behavioral patterns of social media-addicts and implications of marital discord. 

Anand was addicted to interacting with girls whom he believed were hot and adventurous. This compulsion of exciting chats reflects a need to feed the ego and provide him with higher self-esteem. Research also says that such addiction can transform into narcissistic traits gradually. Even when people hide their cyber activities or affairs from their spouses they still report that daily routine was disturbed and that levels of sexual intimacy decreased with the primary partner.

Shruti was trapped in comparison and jealousy for attractive girls. She was concerned about infidelity due to her husband's excessive interactions on social media. Jealousy, infidelity and immoral behaviour may occur offline also, but social media make it easier and quicker to check what your spouse is up to. 

Nowadays some couples are even creating social media ‘prenups’ when they get married—a framework inside a prenuptial agreement for acceptable online behavior, such as fixing hours spent on social sites, not friending ex-partners and not sharing private information or photos without permission.

In our offline routine, one may not interact with more than a handful of individuals who would share their personal life experiences. Social media allows us to converse privately and share emotions in one click. “Some feel it creates an even deeper chasm when it’s emotional rather than just physical,” says Joree Rose, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

It is convenient for spouses, either dissatisfied or those who aspire for a variety, to get in touch with ex-partners or old friends. Making new friends is equally easy, just a few seconds of sending a friend-request. A surveyby Global Web Index, found that 30% of Tinder (a dating site) users are married. AshleyMadison.com that caters to married people looking for affairs has over 130 million members worldwide who visit the site at least once a month. In the second story above, Nisha could not resist the temptation to reach out to an old friend. Just a connection had led to emotional attachment. We might associate an affair with sexual intimacy outside marriages, but there is also a huge danger area that is just as damaging - Emotional affairs.

People who use social media more than 3 hours a day tend to be more amenable to external emotional infidelity than sexual infidelity. Virtual connection gives them freedom to express their emotions without any threat to character-assassinations, and without any investment or logistics overheads, and that too with all the freedom to end the relationship anytime. Emotional affairs are often a gateway leading to full-blown sexual infidelity. About half of such emotional involvements do eventually turn into full-blown affairs, sex and all.

In the recent years, the concepts—often misplaced—of gender equality (feminism, in particular), and racial equality has got prominence in mainstream media where news headlines, public debates and individual posts represent the efforts of fighting sexism, sexual violence and ineqality. Less visible to the public eye, these activists play out in social media where they often sell a false and exaggerated narrative of gender-based injustices. In our third story, we witnessed the plight of a hardworking husband getting exploited by a wife who was empowered by these false narratives of exploitation. 

Many users unknowingly land up in such groups and become victims of mass opinions that are predesigned to promote the agendas of the founders of the groups. These users make decisions based on narratives these groups feed in their brain that ruin marriages and break families.

According to a study, published in Computers in Human Behavior, a 20% annual increase in Facebook enrollment was associated with a 2.18% to 4.32% increase in divorce rates, based on location. 

Breaking of marriage can be attributed to several factors, but are facilitated by excessive use of social media. Some marriages may have a weak foundation but definitely social sites make feelings more intense and actions can be quicker. Moreover, like all sorts of infidelity, online affairs are a red flag for a committed relationship, and they are triggering feelings of inadequacy, anger, or jealousy in a partner. Consequently, a cyber affair could lead to a breakup or divorce.

Conclusion 

On the basis of above stories and analysis one can derive seven keypoint why infidelity due to social media is increasing

  1. It is accessible, affordable and offers anonymous connections.
  2. It provides an illusionary emotional support in a way one desires.
  3. It proves to be the gateway for escaping the reality and hardships in offline life.
  4. Gives a temporary self-esteem boost and increases positive ego that works as a motivation.
  5. It is exciting as one can enjoy a fantasy and create a whole new virtual world.
  6. One can avoid relationship distress or boredom of routine life
  7. Phenomenal ‘Syntopia’ - What they learn online they spill over into their offline experiences.
  8. It fulfils the desire to be appreciated and accepted. - Click- Post- Share- Show-off.