#Techsex: When Jealousy And Surveillance Kill The Mood

As we move into virtual reality in the next phase of our digi-lives, we remain humans, not robots, with human emotions.

13/03/2018 13:28 SAST | Updated 13/03/2018 13:28 SAST
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I have never been a fan of science fiction. It's too out-there and definitely scary. Working with the unexpectedness of people's behaviour, especially in their intimate relationships, is chilling – and thrilling. However, technology grabbed my attention. This tech world has always felt surreal – too immediate and at times, too unbelievable. It's like living in a full-time science fiction world. Not quite "Black Mirror"– yet 😉.

I'm not alone in my love of tech – 52 percent of U.S. adults surveyed say tech has a positive impact on their lives. They say it provides them with a network of information and easily accessible global communication. Naysayers argue that tech is bad as it leads to a breakdown in communication and face-to-face interactions. Being a non-binary person, I say integrate your digi-life into your real life. However, we have a real-life challenge.

As we move into virtual reality in the next phase of our digi-lives, we remain humans, not robots, with human emotions. One cannot escape emotions such as jealousy, and it seems if you already have it IRL, oh boy, you're in trouble in the tech world.

How about doing a quick self-test:

  1. Rate your self-esteem from 1 – 5 (5 being highest and 1 lowest).
  2. Rate your jealousy in personal relationships from 1-5 (5 being highest and 1 lowest).
  3. Rate how well you manage conflict with your partner from 1-5 (5 being highest and 1 lowest).
  4. Rate your Facebook jealousy from 1-5 (5 being highest and 1 lowest).
  5. State if Facebook has been positive or negative to your interpersonal relationships.
  6. Give reasons for your response.

At the end of June 2017, Facebook had more than 2-billion users. Facebook has been identified with positive aspects of people's lives. It is said to satisfy interpersonal intimacy, social integration and satisfaction with life. It is also associated with negative factors. Jealousy, with women reporting higher levels, increased conflicts, loss of privacy, contributing to divorce, physical abuse and even crimes of passion.

And what do we humans do when we feel jealous? Our tendency to mate-guard increases. Our need to protect a threatened valuable resource, namely our partner, is heightened. Before tech, chastity belts for women, patriarchy, financial abuse (and other forms of abuse) were used to contain and control what some felt was their personal property.

Jealousy is difficult to define, complex, and difficult to know when it is acceptable or out of control. It has been associated with low self-esteem. It is also aligned with a greater number of conflicts in a relationship. Couples who struggle with jealousy cannot fight healthily. They turn to violent conflict strategies.

How to exert the same control over feelings of jealousy in this age of tech?

We use sophisticated forms of surveillance.

Geez, with tech there is just nowhere to hide. Facebook is a jealousy bomb waiting to explode. Facebook increases the amount of information people get from their partners. Photos, likes, friends, videos reveal way too much of your fantasies, cravings and skelms.

A couple spent an entire therapy session agonising over why he did not protect her when his son did not tag her, the stepmother, in a family photo. Another couple spent the hour dissecting smiles, winks, and emoticons she had placed on one of his friend's FB page.

Viewing each other's FB page as a daily ritual is a form of socially accepted control or supervision over your partner. Avoiding conversation with your partner – it's way easier to turn to his/her FB page to check his/her status at that moment.

Recently released data from a 3 Spanish study examining the factors associated with Facebook jealousy
indicated that the propensity to experience romantic jealousy and low self-esteem are the most important factors associated with Facebook jealousy. Low ability to negotiate and find solutions during conflicts and being more dominant are predictors of Facebook jealousy. People who are verbally aggressive and fight to win show more Facebook jealousy, while people who compromise in conflict show less Facebook jealousy.

MmeEmil via Getty Images

Tech surveillance is highly advanced. If you're a jealous person or had previous infidelity issues, tech will bring out the surveillance maniac in you. Six-billion text messages are sent every day in the U.S.

Deleting messages is as easy as sending them. Apps are specifically designed to delete messages. The temptation to surveil one's partner is huge. And many people believe they are entitled to do just this. According to one study, one out of every three couples has at least one partner who monitored the other partner's behaviour using some kind of tech tool.

The problem with surveillance is that it turns you into RoboCop. It never allows trust to be rebuilt – even if there is an absence of evidence, it does not mean that there is evidence of absence. And then you enter a "Black Mirror" world in which you are consumed with the world of tech, believe the monsters you dream about and feel whenever you look at your partner are real, and forget how to connect IRL.

Solutions to Facebook jealousy:

  1. If you have low self-esteem, you should not be in a relationship that feels in any way unbalanced, overpowering and where your voice is shut down.
  2. Discuss feelings of jealousy when you are both rational.
  3. Discuss Facebook sharing – privacy is important; so is sharing friends.
  4. Placing boundaries around surveillance is vital.
  5. Manage conflict in a healthy manner. Get therapy to assist with this.

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