Social networks have made life so easy for many of us because messages can be relayed with responses being sent back instantly.
by Ropafadzo Mapimhidze
Gone are the days of letter writing, although I have seen some elderly people at post offices sending letters to their loved ones.
These people have obviously failed to adapt to the new information age era, which has taken the entire globe by storm.
I personally don’t remember the last time I received a handwritten letter from anyone because mobile phones have made messaging easier and faster.
It’s been years since I even received a Christmas card. The only mail I receive are utility bills.
Social networks have brought the world closer to home, but they too, have created so much pain for some people, as stories are posted willy nilly without verification.
From Facebook to WhatsApp, social networks have become the accepted mode of communication and I remember someone who was fired from her job via a WhatsApp message.
Marriages and relationships have also not been spared, as partners spy on each other’s phones. Some people have actually used WhatsApp to sever relationships by asking a stranger to send an amorous message to a married person.
This is what happened to a woman, who received a message that read “Thanks for the lovely time shared…”, which popped into her mobile phone, as she lay in bed with her husband.
The woman was severely beaten and sent packing to her parents’ home only to later discover, following some investigations, that the sender of the message had been paid to do so by the husband.
What a fast way of parting ways with a spouse.
There is yet another woman, a State registered nurse, who was beaten to death after receiving a message on her mobile phone, which was meant for her sister-in-law, who had borrowed her phone.
This was the saddest story that I read in the local Press that attracted a lot of attention from Internet users.
If you are in a relationship, sitting in a cosy sofa watching your favourite movie, where is your partner’s phone?
Is it next to yours on the coffee table? Or does he keep it in his pocket, locked with a passcode and
while it rings and beeps, throughout the evening and he checks it only when you get up to go to the washroom? This is what we call digital infidelity.
Social media is evolving at an alarming speed, with smartphones offering a whole new world of fast, direct and discreet communication options, says the Huffpost Divorce website.
Smartphones manage every kind of relationship and social media applications lower inhibitions and barriers, making it simpler than ever to contact nearly anyone. Why make a phone call when you can send private message with a picture or video to better engage the recipient?
If your partner consistently makes his cellphone invisible to you, locks his phone with a passcode or never uses it in your presence, he may have something to hide. The distractions and temptations presented by the digital world force us to work harder for healthy relationships.
The website goes on to say that it is essential to insist on openness and clear communication, instead of succumbing to the fantasy on your smartphone.
“We know that a leading cause of a relationship break down is the lack of communication between spouses. As a result, many are distracted by social media in search of a third person to meet their emotional and mental needs, which ultimately leads to cheating. Mutual communication and listening are the essence of any good relationship; without them separation and divorce are inevitable.” It is a fact that we have all become “social media monsters”.
Couples don’t converse anymore, as they are both glued on these social networks, even when in bed.
I have been to homes where couples hardly talk to each other and I remember one woman, who was in her bedroom and sent a message via WhatsApp to her husband, who was in the lounge.
Yes, these social networks have created serious social problems and this is taking a toll on relationships and children.
But email, tweets, likes, photos and comments can wait, especially since they are no substitution for actual human contact.
And if you are just too easily distracted, there is always another option: put your phone on silent as soon as you get home because WhatsApp will not stop popping messages, particularly group chats.
I always have trouble at home with my daughter, who is constantly glued to her phone. It is very difficult to conduct any meaningful conversation when the other party is concentrating on what they are seeing on Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter. The result is that I end up going to bed.
I visited a neighbour the other day and when I asked who her son was laughing with, she said: “Oh its Daryl, who must be watching something on YouTube.”
She admitted that she was very lonely, as he ate from his bedroom and the only time they sat together was when she was driving him to school.
I once wrote in this column that I visited my brother’s home a few years ago and found the family hooked onto their smartphones.
They did not hear me open the gate, park my car and only saw me as I sat in a chair. They were all surprised because their dogs didn’t bark at me like they normally do, when someone pulls up at the gate.
The dogs were the ones that actually welcomed me as I was opening the gate.
I have since learnt of a new term called digital infidelity, which occurs when people use social media and other electronic communication to cross marital boundaries.
This can take the form of suggestive chatting or picture messaging, or when you emotionally bond through email with someone other than your spouse. Because of the physical separation, couples may not necessarily view this as “real” infidelity — but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous than a physical encounter.
“When the contact is over the phone, email or online, people don’t immediately see the warning signs of emotional infidelity,” says family counsellor Kelly Chicas, author of Keep Your Pants On: Preventing Infidelity in Your Marriage. Feedback:firstname.lastname@example.org