How technology has ruined relationships

How technology has ruined relationships

Summary: Years back, I had a discussion with some friends about what defines adultery. If one fantasizes or thinks about committing adultery but never acts on it, is that still a cardinal sin?


Years back, I had a discussion with some friends about what defines adultery. If one fantasizes or thinks about committing adultery but never acts on it, is that still a cardinal sin?

Some believe the mere thought of adultery is no different from the act itself. I personally prefer to deem only the act itself, not the thought of it, adulterous--after all, who hasn't daydreamed about frolicking in the sun with the likes of Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Keanu Reeves?

That said, though, if a married man spends most of his time playing up fantasies about having adulterated affairs with other women, there're probably already problems in his marriage that need to be fixed.

And with the emergence of technology, alongside the Internet, the definition of what constitutes as mere fantasy has been stretched to the limit--so much so that I wonder now whether only the physical act itself defines a wrongdoing.

This week, I caught an episode of the BBC's Wonderland documentary series titled, Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love. Its main highlight was an American couple where the wife, Carolyn, spent hours on Second Life maintaining a steamy online affair--through her avatar--with another character on the virtual world.

Carolyn is a mother of four who turned to Second Life as a way to escape the monotony of her suburban American life. Through her avatar, she began a relationship with another Second Life character--manned by a human named Elliott, who lived in London. They hung out for hours on the virtual world, went out on dates and even "had fun" in bed--if you get my drift.

Carolyn spent so much time, and became so intimately involved with her virtual "boyfriend" that it put a strain on her family and marriage with real-world husband, Lee. Though troubled by his wife's obsession with her virtual relationship, he patiently tolerated it until Carolyn decided to visit Elliott in London.

"Role-play is one thing, but where she took it was real," Lee said. "It's one thing to chat on Skype; one thing to chat on [MSN] Messenger; one thing to look at somebody on a Web cam. But when you physically go out there and meet them and interact with somebody you met on the computer, that's crossing the line."

I think that line was crossed way before Carolyn took that flight to London.

The problem here is that Second Life isn't a game, as the BBC documentary points out. It's a virtual life that's representative of real people and fueled by real wants and desires.

When I fantasize about spending a romantic evening with Keanu Reeves, unfortunately for me--to say the least--I and only I alone am enjoying that fantasy. Keanu is unaware of this imaginary date and is not an active participant of the fantasy. This isn't the case in virtual societies like Second Life.

Carolyn's relationship with Elliott may seem "real" only in the virtual world, but the emotions she carries are real enough--she admits to crying her eyes out whenever she has a fight with Elliott.

Carolyn's experience clearly demonstrates that it's not only the naïve and young children who need to take care where technology and the Internet are involved. Even adults, consumed by the desire to escape their less-than-perfect lives, can find themselves seduced by the promises of the virtual world.

Topics: Virtualization, Emerging Tech, Hardware, United Kingdom, Enterprise 2.0, Social Enterprise


Eileen Yu began covering the IT industry when Asynchronous Transfer Mode was still hip and e-commerce was the new buzzword. Currently a freelance blogger and content specialist based in Singapore, she has over 16 years of industry experience with various publications including ZDNet, IDG, and Singapore Press Holdings.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • How technology has ruined relationships

    You are not alone in your fantasies of Keanu - he is the only one I ever fantasize about!!!!
  • How technology has ruined relationships

    My Friend:
    Welcome to the human race, or BETTER, the realm of the Human Mind.
    I have a friend. He is a medical doctor and PH.D in the psychological disciplines.
    I once joked about people who had "lost their minds."
    His response was, " They may have lost their minds, but we doctors are STILL TRYING TO FIND THE HUMAN MIND!"
    He advised me that, yes, we know where the brain is, but NOT the mind!
    One thing is certain, we are hard-wired for reproductive play/involvement and it tends to occupy a tremendous amount of our time and energy, especially mammals, especially us Human men!
    We were born to reproduce/copulate. EIther in love or for pleasure.
    No matter our Faith, beliefs, what mom or dad says, what the teacher or preacher thinks, we MUST fulfill that drive, most of us. Nature wants more people in the play called Life and she IS going to have her way. How we conduct ourselves in this matter, is a measure of our intellectual character and being. WE had to make the world go round.
    THEN ethics and morals, law and order, caught up with us after several Millennia. I am a heterosexual male so Keanu Reeves and Brad Pitt and such, are competitors and in ancient days, would be mere meat for the dogs in the more uncivilized times. I would crush them and take any woman who would have them, but, no woman would have them because they COULD NOT BE desirable just for their supposed attractiveness as it is NOW known. See the difference? In the Stone Age a different set of parameters determined attractiveness and virility. Now, today, a few cultures dominate the stage of human, earthly, masculine and feminine attractiveness and assert a set of new values that fall within the bounds of what is the 'norm.' I BEG TO DIFFER, and some sudden event may allow me to be 'attractive' again. someday.
    AS for fantasizing adulterously: The result of such fantasies, are NOT necessarily corporeal-that is- you did not make an unwanted child, contract or give a fatal or harmful disease, etc. All you really did, was kick me and my kind out of your bedroom and out of your life. We MAY have been able to both satisfy and appreciate you. We may have been quite the couple on the dance floor. You might have liked the back-rubs I gave that you will never get from a man who has women lined up for hundreds of kilometers in every direction. Our children might have been super-beings but this is also your right: to lose at love and gain the satisfaction of knowing you stood up for what you really wanted NO MATTER WHAT!
    No, thinking about 'sex' is not the same as doing it but, knowing what you really need and want is why only mature aduts should go anywhere near acting on their passions.
    But then, that IS the definition of maturity which means many of us, most of us do not truly grow up until we are almost dead of old age!
    I am listening,...
  • Now Who Does the Policing for 2 Worlds??

    While a few years ago, the law and order could be strictly maintained to some extent and technology was a great aid in the hands of the law impositors, now technology is so far and widely available that nobody can trace what's going on between two people living in two entirely different 'worlds' so to say - but the impact on real life is disastrous.

    Take for instance international terrorism - who can say whether Bin Laden is still operating with his laptop and wi-fi connectivity giving instructions to his army getting remotely trained in some African or American jungle? But when the trigger is pulled in the virtual world, the foundations of the real world is shaken.

    If morality cannot be imposed in the real world, the virtual world will always fuel immorality because the virtual court is impotent. What you feel shamed to do publicly is fully exposed and at your disposal in your home for free. Those who 'act' morally due to fear are let loose in the virtual. Only Christ can save this real world!!!
  • How technology has ruined relationships

    Second life rules. Play it and the negative PR people like you might even understand and get hooked to it.
  • How technology has ruined relationships

    Eileen, you make a valid point. In fact, I just read The New York Times Oct. 28th article, "Love, Sex and the Changing Landscape of Infidelity", which notes that more people, especially women, appear to be cheating on their spouses. Electronic contact through e-mail, instant messaging and the Internet makes it easier to be intimate, and affairs seem to be evolving from emphasis on sex to openness and the revelation of secrets. Technology makes it easy to "cheat". On the flip side, the chances of getting caught are probably higher.
  • How technology has ruined relationships

    Dear Eileen,

    That is exactly what Jesus means. The moment you begins to fantasise or even have thoughts about have sexual relations, you are falling into the " Devil's " trap. Your mind set might eventually cause one to cross the line and it can becomes real, maybe not with the actual person you are fantasising, but possibly with another, as your thoughts begins to invade and captivate you, causing you to eventually end up with another.
    This virtual reality is an instrument of the " Devil ", so the best is to stay out of it.
    • communication

      You are very bad