What you need to know:
- Cyber doom. The era of love letters is long gone. Now lovers use private messages on phone through Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and other social media platforms. Because of the privacy associated with these messages, some people have used them as means to have affairs and ruin marriages. But is it social media encouraging the straying or just a means for people who would cheat regardless?
Viola had been posting her photos on her Facebook timeline when David who had become attracted to her chatted her up. The two had been ordinary Facebook friends for six months.
They were both single and they started dating. Now married for two years, David and Viola are both suspicious of the other’s Facebook friends. Issue is; they met on Facebook and so they argue that any of their friends can use the same channel to get to one of them.
A few years ago, Facebook was perhaps the biggest social media platform. Now with WhatsApp, Instagram and the rise of Snapchat, there are even more digital avenues to facilitate cheap and quick communication.
But every good innovation comes with challenges and it is claimed the skyrocketing use of social media has facilitated infidelity. Question is, does social media encourage cheating or does it simply provide people who would cheat regardless with an easier way to do it?
Moses Kalema, a human resource manager at a recruitment agency, does not agree that social media encourages cheating. “I don’t think the problem is with Twitter, Facebook or the Internet. I certainly can see that when people are frustrated in their marriages, disconnected, certain critical needs are not being met, they will turn to other outlets to get those needs met. Twitter or Facebook might be one of them for some people.”
Kalema thus asserts social media is the symptom of a problem within the marriage or a partner not the cause of it.
Social media has a way of reconnecting friends who had lost touch for years. And because of the availability of internet connection, catching up on lost time becomes easy.
Sometimes the ‘catching up’ breeds affairs that would perhaps be avoided if it was just about a random meeting between people who have not seen each other in a long time.
As Sarah reveals, “I had a man I dated 20 years ago track me down on Facebook a year ago. It started off nice enough, but got inappropriate pretty quick. Apparently, he started his search on LinkedIn.”
Sarah therefore, says, it does not have to be Facebook, but all those social media sites present an avenue to reconnect (perhaps inappropriately) that did not exist in the past.
“Being a banker, I am on LinkedIn to connect with colleagues in the corporate world. Assuming he had not seen me pop up on LinkedIn connections, would he have gone through the trouble to look for me?” Murungi asks.
For Clara it was a girl her husband had got to know from a WhatsApp group that almost brought doom to their eight-year marriage. Clara says she had been driven to check her husband’s phone after seeing him spend the best part of his time, even many hours into the night, chatting on WhatsApp.
“I would go to sleep and sometimes wake up to find him chatting on phone at 2am. Since he had forgotten I knew his password I checked his phone only to find this girl was even sending pictures of her body parts to my husband.”
Although Clara and her husband resolved the issues, Lydia’s husband was involved in an affair, which eventually led to a divorce. The two had been married for 12 years when she called it quits. “My ex-husband’s affair started on Facebook back when it was just getting popular. That is, it encouraged the idea of searching for a woman he had known while at university which led to the affair.”
According to Lydia, Facebook did not cause the affair and subsequent divorce, but it was impetus for “searching,” since according to her that is what most people do - search for past relationships. “My husband may have gone searching, anyway. But Facebook made it super easy for him.”
Most social media enthusiasts will tell you to follow your partner’s posts and take note of those who comment on them especially the opposite sex. From those who constantly comment have come interesting discoveries.
I mean where does one get the motivation to follow and comment on somebody’s posts religiously? Unless they are an opinion leader which are of course a few exceptions.
“I figured out that my (future) husband was still seeing his “just-a-friend” ex because of her scrawling on his wall. I am sure there are a lot of predators out there who like marking their territory in cyberspace,” Sandra, a trader says. She says her discovery has dug a big hole of mistrust in the relationship and is worried they may not go past it.
So do social media sites really cause infidelity? No, it is just a means to communicate and help an affair progress. Does it make cheating easier? Mostly, but important to note is that if someone is unhappy and is bent on cheating or wanting to leave their partner, they will do it anyway.
The same was said of the phone texting (SMS) when it became popular.
Marriages were broken, engagements cancelled and relationships ended because of text messages. But now it’s social media.
Ok if you look to the future with the millions of tech-savvy people in the world now, there will certainly be other ways.
Jovia Apio, Teacher
“People cause marriage break ups, not social media sites. Just like people use guns as an instrument to kill people.”
Tryphenna Mubangizi, student
“I don’t know whether Facebook causes marital infidelity. But I think it’s one of the new means to propagate infidelity.”
Gordon Mukasa, a nurse
“Social media is not a cause but another means through which infidelity can blossom. It’s easy to start as “friends” but then the private messages begin gradually and, boom, affair.”
Counsellor: social media has only made cheating easy
With the advent of many social media sites, one would wonder if their presence has done more harm than good. There is confusion whether the likes of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, are not just a perpetuating factor to infidelity.
The interactions on social media usually involve exchange of texts, videos and images. These small, careless conversations are potentially damaging to a relationship once they are continuous and eventually turn into physical meeting. Social media has replaced the intimate time married people would spend with their partners and children. Many men and women spend long hours chatting with friends who sometimes turn out to be their lovers.
According to Ali Male, a counselling psychologist at YWCA, cheating is a habitual challenge that arises from low self-esteem, less communication and unresolved marital issues from either partner. Therefore, to a larger extent, social media ignites a fire that already exists within a person.
Both men and women may be affected equally by this problem. There are many reasons why someone would cheat, and when it happens, it may be a sign that there is a communication problem in the relationship. Maybe one person’s sexual needs are not being met and instead of talking about it with their partner, they end up finding someone else to fulfill the need.
“Social media has given people options that were not available before and although people are responsible for their actions, they are being influenced by their environment. Some people open up multiple accounts and fake profiles for stalking and cheating reasons. Some are seduced by image uploads and think about trying someone different,” Male says.
There are people that develop the idea of cheating from seduction by friends who use social media for cheating. For instance it is now common for one to send their nudes to one’s inbox.
A recent survey by Divorce-Online.com showed that Facebook is mentioned in about 20 per cent of divorce cases. There is facebookcheating.com, a website dedicated to sharing stories from those who have experienced cheating on social media, and providing them with resources to help them be aware of the behaviours and activities of potentially straying partners.
If one has strayed but wants to change their behaviour, they may need to reduce on the amount of time they spend on social media, and also use it for different reasons other than cheating.
Compiled by Beatrice Nakibuuka