By DAVID ODONGO
Many men would gladly let their wives or girlfriends go through their text messages. They will, however, jealously guard their Facebook and Twitter passwords,” says Tim Obare, a married man with three children. He works as an administrator for an NGO, and most of the time is usually online on social media. The reason he can never give his wife his Facebook password is because he flirts with two women on Facebook.
“It’s harmless fun. One woman is in Australia. She isn’t married, but she just types her fantasies, which I respond to. There is actually nothing going on between us,” he insists, revealing that the second woman is a social worker he met at a workshop. “She also spends her whole day outside the office, and we chat in the evenings. We haven’t met yet, but she knows I am married,” adds Obare. He insists there is nothing wrong in flirting with the women online, since it is all harmless fun.
“I don’t even plan on meeting them, I just chat and log out when we are done, but I am sure if my wife gets to know about it, she will jump into conclusions.
According to a research carried out between May and July in Nairobi by researcher Dennis Otundo, the respondents aged between 18 to 40 years disclosed they met their ‘sidekicks’ either on Facebook or Twitter.
Eighty five per cent of the men interviewed admitted to cheating on their spouses, and of the whole group, 64 per cent of the men said they met the women they cheat with on social media.
On the other hand, 83 per cent of the married women interviewed admitted that they were seduced on social media by men they have never met but only 58 per cent gave in to meeting these men.
This was different with the unmarried females as 94 per cent agreed to meet a man they chat with online after three or four days of online encounter. “What we found out is that if a man chats up a woman consistently for three days, chances are high that if he requests a meeting, the woman, married or not, will agree to meet him,” says Otundo. He says 92 per cent of married men, both married and unmarried would agree to meet a lady whose picture they find attractive on Facebook.
Summers Ogange, a mother of one says social media can actually kill a relationship. “Imagine if your wife sends you a chat message on Facebook, you refuse to reply yet she can see you online. Who else could you be chatting with that is more important than her?” asks Summers.
She says alarm bells start ringing when the man keeps on commenting, liking and sharing posts from one particular woman.
“If a man wants a woman, he will do everything to make sure the woman notices him. The man will be all over the lady’s profile, liking her photos, retweeting her posts, and commenting on her status updates, no matter how boring,” says Summers adding that as a wife, you just realise your man has set his eyes elsewhere. To her, social media has made it so easy and convenient for a person to cheat. You could be seated on the same couch and he is busy in boxing some woman on Facebook.
Pastor Robert Buralle, a youth pastor and marriage counselor says social media is marriage’s biggest threat in these modern times.
“A happily married couple can have their marriage broken down just months after one partner joins a social media site. I am not saying people should desist, I can even encourage people to join social media, but one moment of weakness online, can set the ball rolling down a slippery path leading to infidelity,” says Buralle. He says, on social media, one can decide to be anyone, and only realises it after the damage is done.
“What dating couples should focus on is one-on-one relationship, conversation while looking at each others eyes. You can’t expect to date via Facebook or Whatsapp chats, then live together side by side for years to come. Marriage is not as simple as blocking someone on Facebook or deleting an entire chat conversation, or poking, liking or unfriending your partners. Social media makes dating easy, and divorce even easier,” advises the pastor.
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Fred Wangwa who has been married for 17 years, says that as much as social media eases communication between partners, technology impedes their communication when they are together.
“In the years when I got married, once you left the house in the morning, you didn’t talk to your wife until you came back home later in the evening. But once you got home, there was no distraction — just you and your wife to talk, discuss and agree on issues,” says Wangwa. He says that this days, you can keep in touch with your partner every 30 minutes, but wonders about the quality of such conversation.
“Nothing can beat a face to face conversation, and that is what we had in plenty back in the day. Nowadays, you can’t pay much attention to your partner when you get home because you feel you have been in contact the whole day,” he says.
According Faith Nafula Atsango, a psychologist, most social media sites are designed in a way that helps you recover old friends.
“An old lover you last saw seven years ago, is easily accessible on social media. It starts as an innocent catching up session only to open up ‘unfinished businesses’ that could catapult into an extra-marital affair for those married,” she says.
Atsango, however, insists that social media can’t be blamed for breakdown in any relationship.
“Put the blame where it belongs; on relationships. You have to find a way to build trust, respect and love outside social media. If a partner decides to cheat, he or she will cheat with or without social media. It’s a choice an individual makes. Blaming Facebook for breakdown in relationships is just like blaming alcohol for drunk driving. Someone has to make a conscious decision whether to drink or not,” she adds.
Atsango adds that when social media and social lives intertwine, it creates jealousy in relationships. She quotes a new study, which ranks the ways in which social media can cause stress in relationships. “The most cited cause of stress was sharing too much information on your profile page. The second was tagging an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend in a photo.”
Indeed, technology has changed things in the world of relationships. Depending on who you talk to, technology has either made us more trusting or more guarded.