The online experience has certainly changed the landscape of dating in the modern age. An endless line of profiles waiting to be clicked and the instant gratification of real-time chatting has made the potential of a continuous supply of new dates a near-reality.
But the Information Age brings with it another more sinister element — instant background checking with a few clicks on Google, as well as making our lives into an open book on sites like Facebook. It makes one wonder: Has this information overload made men more jealous about the women they date? And is this buffet of photos and data helping or hurting the dating scene and relationships?
We laughingly refer to our hours on Facebook checking out our friends and lovers as “stalking,” which is a devious and often criminal pastime in the non-virtual world. Many people post enough information to give us more than a peek into their private thoughts that were once locked in diaries or journals.
The ubiquity of phone cams and smart phones now allows for one’s drunken exploits and even innocent “friend hugs” to be posted around the world by our friends and “tagged” without our consent, almost as they happen.
Little is left to the imagination. Well, actually, that’s not really the case: An endless stream of “jealousy triggers” can allow our imaginations to fill in a lot of the missing details. There are boundless opportunities for misinterpretations:
- A pic of our girl smiling at (or near?) somebody in a nightclub.
- A photo of some palooka with his arm around her shoulders. She might be freaking out, but we think she’s a willing participant.
- Some dude we don’t know posts a happy birthday message or comments on her swimsuit pic.
Can a relationship withstand this kind of non-scientific scrutiny? Do guys who are usually not jealous become embarrassed, horrified and angry over information that would never have been brought to their attention in previous generations? Sometimes.
“The need to nurture our loving relationships through the
bonds of human contact, emotion and intuition cannot
be replaced by the spam spit out by a microprocessor.”
A lot of relationships begin, play out and end solely online. These cyber-flings also have the potential to disrupt solid, thriving relationships.
There is broad agreement among experts that a man becomes more jealous at the thought of another man physically violating his woman’s private space, whereas women are more likely to be most concerned about her man sharing an emotional or loving bond with another woman. The online world provides endless opportunities for both.
“Chat sex” as well as romantic emails flourish in the virtual environment, where anybody can have the adventure of a lifetime with a stranger. But how does this compare to real infidelity when it comes to our jealous response?
A 2010 study by Guadagno and Sagarin investigated and found interesting comparisons. Men were still more upset and jealous of their women’s cyber-sex exploits than romantic online flirting, and women were still more jealous of the emotional betrayal than of gratuitous cam sex. Still, they found that “…online infidelity situations were rated less distressful than conventional infidelity situations. In other words, men and women were not as jealous in online infidelity.”
A few facts remain.
First, jealous people are jealous people. As Dr. Amy Muis, with the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto, expressed it, “ How jealous I am in my life is correlated with how jealous I am on Facebook. Those things aren’t two separate entities.” If we have the “jealousy gene,” we will be jealous with or without Facebook.
Secondly, the plethora of online information gives us many more opportunities to find things to be jealous about. Like “death by a thousand paper cuts,” the virtual world might be seen as jealousy by a thousand pennies to the groin. A lot of small details can add up to a big pain, especially when magnified by our worst assumptions.
No doubt some people will dodge bullets thanks to the information they find out online, while others will give up great relationships over nothing. More than ever, the reality of this new virtual environment requires that couples have more face-to-face and heart-to-heart communication to make it through. The need to nurture our loving relationships through the bonds of human contact, emotion and intuition cannot be replaced by the spam spit out by a microprocessor. Some old and universal truths will never be changed by technology.