Social media puts marriages on litmus test

RAY MUNGOSHI

MASERU – The explosion of the digital age in the last decade is putting many marriages and relationships through the litmus test of fidelity. Stories abound worldwide of a spike in divorce rates and the collapse of long term relationships after spousal peccadilloes on social media, especially WhatsApp, are exposed.Screaming headlines announcing that “Now, marriages break down over WhatsApp connections of partners , WhatsApp addiction drives ‘love’ marriage to divorce or Smartphones, Facebook; WhatsApp break down marriages in Bangalore” have become common currency in the press.

While infidelity sat at the heart of most divorces even before the technological boom of the 1990s, philanderers then could, at least, duck and dive and keep their sexual transgressions under wraps for sustained periods. Social media, starting with Facebook and now the almost ubiquitous WhatsApp and Instagram, has somewhat put a stop to the sexual tomfooleries of latter-day Lotharios and Casanovas. Well, err not really. Although Lesotho customarily permits the practice of polygamy – though not recognized by civil law – extra-marital affairs and infidelity remain standard-fare in the kingdom known for its belles.

Whereas the jury is still out on the nation’s value-system, experts suggest unfaithfulness is fanned in the main by searing poverty, easy mobility and social media that has constricted geographical distances, making it easy to conduct affairs with people in far-flung areas. Mary Molata * has been in a long-distance relationship since last year. Her boyfriend lives in Botswana and hops over to Maseru periodically. The couple met at university in South Africa. “WhatsApp has been a boon for our relationship because I can talk to my boyfriend as and when I want. This makes up for the shortcoming of not having your lover with you on a daily basis,” she says.

Her friend, Noluvhuyo* adds: “Who would have thought we would be conducting relationships on phones and exchanging sweet nothings daily with people in as far away as Canada? This is just great.” “If it weren’t for social media, we wouldn’t have found each other again and rekindled our relationship,” says 30-year-old Lerato Moketo* who was in a relationship with her “long lost but now found” boyfriend, Maruping Maruping* when they were teenagers.

Jelita Mulenga chips in, saying while she is generally pleased that social media and the digital age in general had improved people’s lives, she was wary of its harmful impact on people’s social relationships. “Just as much as it is easy to communicate and make contact with people all over the world, and so it is to fall into bad ways: to get hooked on pornography for instance and cheat on your partner,” says Mulenga. She adds: “This is why I would never go through my boyfriend’s phone. I don’t want to find what I would be looking for and hurt myself; because I know he is flirting with other women.”

“Social media is both a blessing and a curse, isn’t it? It is great that we can run our lives from our phones, but those same instruments can be tools of destruction. “Relationships are crumbling every day because of WhatsApp so I would rather not know for sure what my beau is doing on his phone, though I might suspect he is up to no good,” she said. Another young woman in her late 20s jumped into the focus group type of debate vowing to comb her boyfriend’s phone thoroughly notwithstanding the risk of coming across material that might place her relationship in jeopardy.

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