The Net: Naughty By Nature?

A while back, I wrote an arti­cle, Meet­ing Online Con­tacts Offline. Some­one left a com­ment on the arti­cle say­ing that she want­ed to talk to some­one about “inter­net affairs” and ask­ing if I could help. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, she did­n’t email me or leave her email address, and while I respond­ed to her com­ment, she did­n’t con­tact me again. I’m still won­der­ing what kind of help she needed. 

Since then, I’ve read sev­er­al Themestream arti­cles about the ter­ri­ble effect the inter­net has had on peo­ple’s mar­riages. One arti­cle talked about how a cou­ple fought with each oth­er using instant mes­sages and found oth­er loves through the inter­net. In gen­er­al, I haven’t seen many pos­i­tive arti­cles about the inter­net and rela­tion­ships, and I final­ly decid­ed that some­body need­ed to write one just for bal­ance. Please note that I am not say­ing that those arti­cles were bad or not fac­tu­al, just that I’m not­ing a ten­den­cy towards look­ing at the dark side of the issue. 

As any­body who has read my arti­cles on inter­net safe­ty or my web­site would know, I’m very cau­tious about who I get to know and how close they get to my fam­i­ly. Due to past expe­ri­ences, I am extreme­ly aware of infor­ma­tion­al secu­ri­ty, and there are peo­ple who have known me for years online who don’t have my street address—and are unlike­ly to get it any time soon unless they vis­it Atlanta and I decide to invite them over. 

I have, how­ev­er, met many won­der­ful peo­ple in the years I’ve spent online. I’ve had good and bad experiences—but most of them, hon­est­ly, have been good. I’m cau­tious, but I’m not closed to possibilities—and due to that, there are peo­ple in my life who I would nev­er have met oth­er­wise. There’s a man who is my par­ents’ age who is like a broth­er to me. There’s a fam­i­ly whose daugh­ter stays with us when her par­ents are work­ing and who game with us and cel­e­brate hol­i­days with us. And there’s my life part­ner, who I met at church but got to know online. 

The inter­net does not lead to any kind of infi­deli­ty or oth­er bad behav­ior any more than tele­phones, cars, or rock music does. There’s absolute­ly no rea­son to claim that your wife left you because of some­body she met on the internet—if she was going to be unfaith­ful, she could have found ways to do so with or with­out the net. Your hus­band did not get into pornog­ra­phy because of the internet—he could have found it oth­er­wise if he want­ed to do so (yes, it’s easy to find it online, but there have always been oth­er ways, too). Your teenage daugh­ter did not sud­den­ly become rebel­lious and get involved with some weird new reli­gion because of the internet—the rebel­lion was already there, and she would have found an out­let for it with or with­out that AOL account. If your son was going to be com­mit­ting some kind of van­dal­ism, the fact that he found the script kid­dies’ web­sites and the virus cre­ation toolk­it online may have steered him towards a par­tic­u­lar kind of van­dal­ism, but it did­n’t make him do it. Whether a per­son acts eth­i­cal­ly or uneth­i­cal­ly depends on that per­son­’s char­ac­ter, not whether or not he or she is online. 

A cou­ple whose rela­tion­ship is in trou­ble isn’t going to have a stronger rela­tion­ship because they get rid of the PC and the cable modem. They won’t mag­i­cal­ly find them­selves dis­in­ter­est­ed in out­side affairs. They won’t be any more like­ly to put the work that needs to be done to (if pos­si­ble) heal their mar­riage just because they’re back to watch­ing TV instead of chat­ting online. The same tools they use to talk to their lovers could be used to increase com­mu­ni­ca­tion with each other—if they want­ed to use them that way. 

I find infi­deli­ty of any kind utter­ly dis­gust­ing. I am not, in fact, very for­giv­ing of peo­ple who break their com­mit­ments to their part­ners or to their chil­dren. I don’t con­done “inter­net affairs” or any oth­er kind of affairs, but I can’t real­ly see why there’s a need to think about “inter­net affairs”—cheating is cheat­ing, period. 

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished March 12, 2001

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top