We can’t lie- we love Facebook. We have made friends, reconnected with old friends and kept in touch with loved ones from all over. Facebook has allowed people to heal old wounds, create a lot of new ones and create a community of support that rivals Hands Across America. Where else can you get 100 prayers in less than a minute? At the same time, we have all experienced trolls and flamers who have tried to make our lives miserable. And yet, many other people have taken these virtual relationships to another level.
More than 20% of divorces are being blamed on Facebook. Of course, Facebook is not at fault here but it has become an avenue to find that long lost boyfriend from high school that you didn’t quite get over. Instant messages are allowing men and women to communicate all day and night without much chance of getting caught. A simple password or secret Facebook account is all you need to make sure that your significant other is unaware that you are conducting an emotional affair with someone your partner probably has never met.
On-line relationships seem to be the norm and the science behind this is compelling. Daniel Goleman, the same man who gave us Emotional Intelligence, coined the term “Cyber-disinhibition” which is the loss of our natural neural checks and balances when we communicate with others. Normal, face-to-face communication involved much more than words. We are constantly monitoring our tone, editing our words and also watching for cues from the person with which we are communicating. If we say something that has the person with which we are communicating wince or smile, we note this and accommodate this information into our continued communication. A smile allows us to continue. A frown tells us they do not like what we are saying so we stop or even apologize. On-line communication does not have these checks and balances, so we tend to disclose faster, we tend to react faster and meaner, we tend to become vulnerable quicker and thus we develop feelings quicker than in real life.
Of course, the up-side to this is that we can develop very real friendships and relationships that are based on honest communication. What do you have to lose in a virtual relationship? The down-side to adulterous relationships created on Facebook is that they are based on fantasy. In many cases, the person who reaches out to someone and creates an emotionally unfaithful relationship is looking for an outlet; a refuge from their current relationship. Instead of working on their marriage, they spend their time and invest their emotions on a fantasy. It is an outlet for their fears concerning their own relationship. With this fantasy, they can feel loved and cared for without needing to deal with the issues in the real world. This fantasy also allows the person to delude themselves into thinking that this new relationship is so much better than the old one.
We would never meddle in someone’s love life and if you have found ‘the one’, God bless you! However, before you emotionally leave your IRL (in real life) relationship for your Virtual Lover, make sure that you actually leave your IRL relationship. Starting one without leaving the other puts too much pressure on your new one. Fantasies are wonderful. However, they do not always stand the pressure of reality. Invest your energy with the one who is standing in front of you. If it is irreparable then end it in a healthy manner. Then go ahead, reconnect with your high school sweetheart. Who knows what could happen?