The Internet has opened the possibility of online romance. It’s heady. Gives an instant high and is deliciously dangerous. Here Smriti, based on her interactions with some of her friends, tells us the about the many risks of the virtual love affair, exclusively in Different Truths.
“Wow! You look hot and sexy.” The message flashed on her computer screen. Ruhi (all names changed to protect identities) smiled coyly and blushed. A middle-aged simple Indian housewife, whose life revolved around her husband and two adolescent children but only till a few months back. After months of her whining that she has too much empty time on her hands her daughter introduced her to the virtual world by opening her account on a social networking site.
What opened in front of Ruhi was the world beyond her dreams. Brought up in the traditional Indian way socialisation was not her forte. Meeting with her girlfriends was not so easy so any interaction with the opposite sex never ever occurred to her. And now, there were so many possibilities. So many eager friend requests. She felt a new high!
Now, her days were not so boring. Her home chores were less time-consuming. She wanted to be at her computer as early as possible. For someone, as lonely as Ruhi, there was a new friend, Jai. And he had all the time in the world for her. Ruhi had been married for twenty years and her husband was too busy in making the two ends meet for the family. Ruhi couldn’t remember when it was the last time when her husband had complimented her. Sex was just a routine as if the two had duties towards each other, which somehow had to be fulfilled.
Jai with his enchanting, slightly droopy smile, twinkling eyes seemed very vulnerable and innocent to Ruhi. She liked him the instant she added him to her friend list and was soon swayed away by his smooth talking. Jai was a man of words. He could read Ruhi’s moods and rejuvenate her within seconds with his humour and wit. Becoming friends with Jai changed Ruhi dramatically.
She was no more the complaining whining housewife. She was humming and smiling all the time, while busy in her daily work, which was so burdening and boring for her just a few months back. Her sexual relationship with her husband also changed. She was more expressive and demanding. Less unaware of her body changes that time had brought. These changes happened because Ruhi was flattered by the fact that even at this age she could look attractive to someone, who was much younger to her.
The loneliness of middle-aged housewives, nuclear families, where one of the spouses has to spend a lot of time alone has led to a surge in online romances. It’s not just married couples but people living alone, who also delve into these online friendships. It makes them feel needed and loved.
The social networking sites have created a space for the liberation of sexuality. Online romances give way to people to overcome the inhibitions and unease, which a real face to face encounter gives. These virtual relationships, where one hides behind the safety – and at times, the anonymity – allow almost full freedom from power relations of the real world.
People are more explicitly exploring and experimenting with their sexuality and fantasies, which they would have not done in the real world due to the several constraints and taboos. With no fear of social discard, they can be whoever they want to be with no compulsions of being in their comfort zone.
But, in spite of getting so much of freedom to be whatever they want to be, many of my friends wanted to stay away from online romancing. Apprehensions of being associated with someone dangerous, which may lead to more serious repercussions has kept them away. “You are my Greek God” or “You are hotter than Katrina” were good enough for a momentary kick but not for a lifelong high!
Based on the discussions I had with many of my friends, most were of the opinion that there is a very thin line between healthy flirting and infidelity. There is no set rule that people who meet online are not going to meet physically. What transpires between them when they meet in person cannot be controlled. “Something which is beyond our reach, does not belong to us is always more tempting and captivating,” opined Sahil.
This desire may lead to serious and dangerous consequences. “Online friendships are perfectly safe and marvellous as long as they do not merge with the real world,” felt Archana.
They are precious and apt to be preserved as long as they do not instigate the breaking of a home, a relationship or to the extent of ending a beautiful life. Online romance is nothing different. For many, it may seem something very harmless and healthy, as two people are not doing anything physically. They meet in a virtual world through a machine, exchange a few pleasantries add a little zing to their bored redundant lives and go back again to their respective lives. Yes, what harm does it do if it makes Ruhi a little more happy, zests up her sex life, but is it so simple?
Let’s not forget, it’s not the act (read indulgence) but the intent that matters. Online relationships are very close to infidelity and adultery. Almost no one knows when and where to stop.
Despite all this, if we are ready to take the plunge, we must be prepared for all its consequences, no matter how bad. There is a Ruhi in all of us. The secret is how to contain and control the lure.
Photos from the internet.
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