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There is a curious traffic taking place across the United States and, for all that is possible, across the world. This traffic is facilitated by social media and the Internet. It is witnessed therefrom. The media that facilitate that traffic are both cause and symptom, observer and participant. Our modern age has made it possible for you to ruin your life in multiple ways, not the least of which is attempting to establish and conduct romantic affairs, either among single people or at the expensive of legal, real-world marriages.
Much of the blame for “online affairs” falls to activities like World of Warcraft, which so often finds itself in the news for its effects on players’ real lives and marriages that one wonders how those players find time to slay orcs (or whatever the hell it is they do). Rob Waugh reported last year that World of Warcraft and other online games can, per a Brigham Young study published in 2012, seriously damage your marriage.
According to the study, the 36 percent of online gamers who are married experienced problems ranging from disruptions in bedtimes to arguments over time spent gaming, which in turned caused marital dissatisfaction. “These issues,” writes Waugh, “can cause problems such as poorer marital adjustment, less time spent together in shared activities and less serious conversation. … The researchers believe the problem could be more severe than the study shows because they found many dedicated gamers were not willing to participate in the study.”
Contemporary problems for marriage where the Internet is concerned go much deeper than playing World of Warcraft, however. The Internet is now one of the primary means of meeting and marrying your future spouse. According to the New York Daily News, fully one-third of marriages in the United States begin with online dating.
“Online dating has ballooned into a billion-dollar industry,” reads the article, which draws its conclusions from a survey of more than 19,000 people married between 2005 and 2012. The study asserts that the Internet is altering the dynamics, and the outcomes, of the institution of marriage.
Per the study, those “who reported meeting their spouse online tended to be age 30-49 and of higher income brackets than those who met their spouses offline,” while among those who did not meet online, “nearly 22 percent met through work, 19 percent through friends, 9 percent at a bar or club and 4 percent at church.”
In 2011, Online Dating Magazine estimated that more than 280,000 marriages per year were the result of, well, online dating. It cited as the biggest dating services online the websites Match.com and eHarmony. The previous year, a Pew Internet Cash for Content study declared that 5 percent of all Internet users had paid actual money to use an online dating service, while a Chadwick Martin Bailey study claimed 17 percent of couples married in the three years previous had met online.
The outcomes and relative satisfaction rates of those meeting online or offline have been argued (at times hotly), but that is not the point. The point is that the Internet is now tied directly to society’s collective feelings on how one finds, “courts” (if we can even call it that) and eventually establishes a romantic relationship with a member of the opposite sex.
And, of course, there are the permutations thereof.
This will be distasteful for some of you. It will hit close to home for others of you. It may sound bizarre or unbelievable for the rest of you … but look to those around you and mark these words: You know someone, or you know someone who knows someone, who has conducted an affair online, or who has used the Internet to facilitate a less than “normal” romantic relationship.
When you think about it, this only makes sense. The Internet did not make it possible for pedophiles to find victims, much as we often speak of “online predators” as though there were no molesters before the Internet. Going online simply made it easier for predators to find suitable victim groups. The same is true of people who are seeking extramarital affairs, or people who are seeking unusual, immoral, illegal, or simply weird romantic entanglements. The Internet makes it possible for these people to find each other, screening their identities through quasi-anonymity until they locate the personalities and the romantic permutations they desire.
This brings us back to the curious traffic in the United States. That traffic is ugly people.
Read on for a moment before you give up in disgust or offense. You know someone, or through a mutual acquaintance you know of someone, who has met an ugly person on the Internet and then moved that person across the country so they could be together. Often, the Internet unites ugly, hopeless fat people, spiriting the undesirable around the continental U.S. in a kind of World of Warcraft triangle trade that exchanges rent and food for the dubious pleasures of ugly company. Of course, any combination of attributes is possible and can and does occur. Some of the people who relocate their lives to be with someone they met online are single and hurting no one. Others are leaving behind shattered families and flabbergasted spouses. Still others are bailing out of unhappy relationships. Some are even using the Internet to facilitate otherwise awkward polygamies, “swinging” and a plethora of alternative lifestyles.
All these Internet relationships have in common a single truth. In the history of ugly people relocating across the country for the purpose of fulfilling romantic fantasies, not one single person involved has ever been better off for it. If you met your spouse online and the two of you are happy, these words do not apply to you, and you know they do not.
If, on the other hand, you are using the Internet to engage in an unhealthy dalliance with an unhealthy person, and especially if you blew up your family to do it, these words, this truth, were written specifically for you.
But you already know that.