Eighth Chapter – Interactivity

07/30/2008

In telling my own story, I’ve obviously gone down a different road than those who enter the internet’s dark side by way of chat rooms. I have no personal experience with it at all, though I stood at the “doorway” to several, but couldn’t bring myself to create the online alias needed to enter. I did visit a few forums however, so I get enough of what’s going on to understand it a little; and if you’ve ever posted a comment to a blog or news site, you’ve caught the essence of the technical side of this.

 

So even though this chapter is short, I wanted to give it special recognition because of the role that chat rooms and forums play in some people’s online experience. I’ve already stated for the record that I find text sites to be quite devastating. I want to say “more” devastating, but I suspect many would challenge that, but certainly in my own case it’s true.

 

So I can’t begin to imagine what those initial encounters would be like if they had contained an interactive element. Again, being part of the Christian community, I think I have an example from my world that makes it more relatable: The difference that one finds between attending church on Sunday where you’re sitting in rows watching things happen on the platform versus going to a small group meeting in someone’s house where everyone is sharing around the circle. The popularity of small groups in the last twenty years is due to the added stimulation of being the person who might share something next, or get asked the next question, and this has led many people to find their small group experience makes Sunday morning rather stale by comparison, which has led to churches introducing interactive elements in their morning services. (If that’s not a part of your experience, think back to your college days; you probably hated the lectures but loved the tutorial groups.)

Well…that principle applies in other areas, too. Once you introduce the element of interactivity, there is going to be a heightened sense of stimulation – which is central to this subject – which is going to make the whole experience that much more intense.

 

The other side of this, however, occurs when the chat room experience becomes specific to certain individuals whose aliases you begin to recognize over time, which may often end up being one specific person over time whom you “meet” on the chat room at predetermined times.

 

Again, I can’t imagine sitting in my family room, typing away as I am now, but carrying on a conversation with another woman in another town, sharing some of the more intimate parts of my life and allowing my fantasies to be part of the conversation, while my wife sits just a few feet away sewing a button on my shirt.

 

That would be bad enough. But then, as the conversation becomes more intimate, we select a privacy option which means that only the two of us are in the chat room.

 

That would be bad enough. Add to it the dynamic of pretending to be someone else, located somewhere else; pretending to be younger; pretending to be single, or pretending to be someone of the opposite sex. It’s no wonder these keyboard conversations get carried to the point where there has been so much intimacy that the people involved can’t live another minute without meeting somewhere in person.

 

That would be bad enough. But add to it the dynamic that the person I’m writing to may be equally spinning a tale that even Pinocchio’s nose isn’t long enough for. So I fly to Cincinnati, or Denver; or she agrees to meet me in Atlanta or Seattle… What are the odds of this ending well versus the chances that it will end badly?

 

But even if we never meet, even if her computer crashes and she’s offline for a week, and I lose track of her never knowing what happened, what of the emotions, deep longings and intimate thoughts I’ve shared with her that I really belonged to my wife? Haven’t I really cheated already at that point?

 

That’s why chat rooms were never part of my online experience. Unfortunately, many men – and women – can’t say the same thing. Enter the world of online pornography and you’re playing with fire. Add the element of interactivity, and you’re playing with a nuclear bomb.

 

Before leaving this subject though, I have to remind you that it’s possible to play the chat room game without even installing an internet browser, as long as you’re connected to that other internet device: E-mail.

 

We haven’t discussed e-mail at all here, because usually, the only collateral way e-mail enters into this discussion is that the porn user suddenly experiences an increase in spam (those unwanted e-mails from people you don’t know.) Websites can track who it is that’s knocking at their doors, and are quick to follow that up with offers matching an already demonstrated interest. They also make money selling e-mail addresses to both related and unrelated businesses.

 

But if a person only uses e-mail to communicate with someone whose address they have obtained, surely that’s not pornography, right? I disagree. I would suggest that substituting e-mail for chat rooms is an attempt to legitimize what may be an equally graphic exchange of steamy, erotic text content. Furthermore, e-mail can be used to send pictures, too. I think that the method of transmission matters little; if you’re using the internet in any form for sex talk with someone who is either a stranger or someone known to you, that’s a form of internet pornography.

 

The other thing that has to be said, whether it’s chat room exchanges or sexually-charged e-mails, is that the ‘acting out’ factor on this is well documented. People chat online and then they meet. That’s why it’s so important for couples to have absolute transparency with each other where their computer usage is concerned.

 

Again, as with other forms of text pornography, I think that it’s important that people avoid rationalizing this activity because no one is stripping naked for pictures. In fact, the intimacy these exchanges include mean that there are lots of people who are being emotionally laid bare.


 

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