Virtual Relationship Transparency
Technology has changed society, especially the way we socialize. It is common to own a personal phone, tablet, or computer. Devices such as smartphones, tablets or ipads, and laptops or computers have opened doors to a variety of possibilities to build relationships such as friendships, acquaintances, and romance. A lot of us are capable of having more interactions with people online than in-person. There are many pros and cons to this that explain why it is currently found to be our preferred method to build and maintain relationships. However, this comes with ethical dilemmas such as disclosing online relationships to in-person relationships like romantic partners, friends, or family members.
Ways to meet people online
Developing relationships using technology is almost inevitable for many who are actively using these devices and platforms – intentionally or not. These friendships are extremely convenient, since most people always have their phones with them, making communication very portable and instant as well. Online methods of meeting people may include dating or friendship-finding apps/services, online social gaming (computer, apps, gaming devices), virtual classes or support groups, and social media platforms. Playing online games or watching movies online using platforms such as TeleParty has made long-distance relationships easier to develop naturally. These friendships are extremely convenient since most people always have their phones with them – making communication portable and instant.
It was incredibly useful for me, when I was vegan, to find and connect with other vegans. I didn’t know many in person but found it incredibly useful to meet with other vegans online. Finding a connection with people is very valuable in self-identity and growth. In addition to meeting other vegans, I have also developed a lot of unexpected friendships by playing games I love and by working with organizations online. I am sure without having these online relationships wouldn’t change my values, but it has been something I am very grateful to have during my lifetime.
In my experience, having the option of developing friendships online is a useful resource to fight loneliness, depression, confidence, and a sense of belonging. This can be especially comforting to those who experience trauma at home, school, work, or maybe just have a bad day. Knowing you can hop online instantly and talk, virtually, to a licensed professional or a friend is a wonderful thing to have.
Online friends can be from all over the world, which means most are long-distance friendships. A positive part of having friends from different countries is getting to know and understand different cultures and environments globally from online friends.
While disclosing certain online relationships to others may vary depending on the individual, there is one reoccurring situation that should be addressed. In some instances, when an individual becomes popular online, some people may think of their relationship with that person to be very close because they may read/watch many of their posts. This can lead to stalking, trespassing, harassment, and other behavior from viewers/fans who target individuals. Their intentions may be genuine and positive, but not always. The point is, that for any reason, this behavior is not acceptable and can be criminal. This is one of many reasons why online social activities have age restrictions but I don’t think that is enough to solve the problem. In addition to internal platform restrictions, general awareness and education on how to avoid and handle these potential problems and situations would be incredibly useful and necessary.
Online Safety Educational Resources:
Securing accounts, devices, and connections – www.getcybersafe.gc.ca/en
Digital citizen complex lesson plans – www.commonsense.org/education/articles/23-great-lesson-plans-for-internet-safety
Disclosing online relationships is something many do not currently do, but I think we should change this. We of course are entitled to keeping our personal life, well, personal – but depending on our situations I don’t think it should always be. Circumstances where I believe we should ethically disclose online relationships (romantic or not) would be to a romantic partner or to parents of children under 18. Having intimate/close online friendships or online affairs that are not disclosed and kept a secret from romantic partners is a common moral issue. Online secrecy can potentially lead to having a whole other online identity that others (in person) do not know about.
I believe the main problem with poor ethics in online relationships comes from the fact that it is currently much easier to keep secrets virtually from others and hide identities. Of course, some people can be tracked in criminal situations but it can be difficult with tools like VPNs (virtual private networks) and identity theft.
Having internet and virtual relationships is a blessing and I hope more realize that and value it and not take advantage of it and use it in negative ways. By setting an example of acceptable behavior, looking out for others, and creating more awareness I believe we can help reduce the negatives associated with virtual relationships.