Columnists Features

Social media: Sexting, relationships and marriages

GENDER FOCUS with EMELDA MWITWA
TALKING of social media, someone remarked that it has a tremendous effect on intimate relationships – it has potential to ignite love in relationships or quench the love depending on how it is used.
The social media, which started with a bang as a platform for people to stay in touch with friends and family and probably share ideas, has taken a new twist, and this of course has not spared family unit and matters of love or relationships.
There are people who believe they can find love on the social media and apparently they make desperate attempts to hint to the prospective Miss Right or Mr Right that they are available and free to mingle.
Well, perhaps it works and one can only wish such aspirants well. My concern rather is on another category of social media enthusiasts who simply want to use web-based interactive forums to flirt with the opposite sex. This includes the married too.
Unfortunately, some of these people send suggestive messages to uninterested parties who only want to use the platform to share ideas and interact with friends.
For example, last week one KELVIN MUTALE SAMPA posted thus on Facebook:
“Let me express my concern especially towards ladies I accept to be my Facebook friends. I totally respect you and I expect you to do the same. My accepting your friendship should border on mutual respect. I am not looking for a relationship, I have children and a wife. I am MARRIED and HAPPY so let’s draw the line. You are wonderful people and let’s maintain that.”
This posting attracted lots of reactions and one catchy response from MATILDAH MWABA reads: “Timely advise for both sexes, respect each other. FB is a social media to share good things and ideas not ready for marriage. Well said brother, thumbs up.”
Well, by nature of my job, there is no way I can avoid the social media, I have signed up for quite a number of web-based interactive forums.
Ideally, the social media is good as it allows people to stay in touch with friends, share ideas, and research suggests that it takes away loneliness from some people.
There are also people who use this platform for research, to advertise and sell products – and all this is good.
My concern though is on the perverted use of the interactive forums, much to the detriment of the family. I am sure we have heard stories of how married people have posted inappropriate content on the social media which has landed them in trouble.
Last month we carried a story in our Sunday Mail of a couple that divorced in a Lusaka local court after the husband posted graphic pictures of himself hobnobbing with a woman.
It seems the man took advantage of his wife who is somewhat unfamiliar with ICTs, but information reached her through friends. Concerned friends made the pictures available to the poor woman, and as of today, the couple has since divorced.
When I read the story, I was like ‘What? Why would a married man disgrace his wife like that on social media?’ Though somehow I feel the social media is not entirely responsible for what is happening – it is just mirroring the decaying morals in our communities.
These things have been happening all along, but the social media with its ability to transmit pictures, recorded messages and videos is just exposing clandestine affairs.
I am actually reminded of an incident in the UK a fortnight ago where a Minister for Civil Society, Brooks Newmark, 56, a married man and father of five, was forced to resign after he disgraced himself on WhatsApp.
According to the Sunday Mirror, Newmark, who co-founded Women2Win, a campaign aimed at encouraging women to join active politics, stepped down after he exchanged X-rated pictures with an under-cover journalist.
The former minister attempted to cheat with a beautiful blonde- haired woman who turned out to be a male journalist investigating claims that members of Parliament were using the social media to ‘meet’ women. As the investigation progressed, the investigative freelancer busted the sex scam.
He posed as a twenty-something-yearold party activist and started following Newmark on Twitter, and of course posting pleasant commentaries about Tory politics.
Newmark fell for the blonde ‘Sophie’ and sent her a private message via Twitter. He gave ‘her’ his mobile phone number and their interaction switched to WhatsApp, a more convenient medium.
The bitter stroke came when the former minister exchanged inappropriate pictures with ‘Sophie’ ahead of a date with ‘her.’.
On the fateful day, ‘Sophie’ sent a graphic photograph of herself on the request of Newmark who wanted to know what she looked like before they could meet.
An exchange of pictures ensued and then Newmark sent one picture of himself wearing a T-Shirt while watching television in bed; another from waist downwards as well as a close-up of his bare chest.
When ‘Sophie’ sent a naked picture of herself, Newmark demanded more saying: “…Resend without your hand in the way and legs parted and I will send something in return.”
To cut the long story short, before he knew it, the flirtatious minister was busted – he was left with no choice but to step down and of course apologise to his family.
You cannot imagine the pain and humiliation that his wife and children suffered when the Sunday Mirror broke the story and the whole issue went viral.
Obviously the unfortunate incident has scarred Newmark’s marriage because a relationship can never be the same after such a tempestuous phase.
This is not just one isolated case of social media misuse tearing families apart; there are so many marriages which have gone through turbulent moments after exposure of clandestine activities on social media.
As far as I am concerned, I don’t blame web-based interactive forums. Like I said earlier, they are just mirrors that are exposing the moral decay that we have always lived with.
Of course there are certain people who without intent have messed themselves up on account of failure to draw lines in their interaction with the opposite sex on the social media.
For some people it’s the exchange of suggestive jokes, and private intimate conversations with the opposite sex on WhatsApp or Facebook that has landed them in trouble.
For others it’s the exchange of pleasantries that was taken too far, sometimes at odd hours, and before long, they began to flirt.
In ending let me share something that a University of Zambia student posted on Facebook with regard to taking precautions against temptation.
“Adulterous affairs don’t begin with sleeping together; they begin with inappropriate friendships. Inappropriate friendship and emotional attachments with people of the opposite sex.
“Protect your relationships by avoiding private communications and intimate conversations with people of the opposite sex.”
Wise words, I must say. Simply put the author is urging us to appreciate that we are not super-humans, therefore we need not go to the brink of temptation. The Bible in 1 Corinthians 10:12  puts it aptly that: “Let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls.”
eshonga@daily-mail.co.zm/emeldashonga@yahoo.com.Phone 0211- 227793/221364.

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