Sexy Facebook photos: an example of the wired world’s threat to today’s relationships01 july 2013, 15:40
Note to readers: I’d like your opinions to questions I pose at the end of this article – or to hear other comments you’d like to make. – Hal Foster.
My friend Danny was depressed.
He had had a bad fight with his girlfriend Aigul, whom he loves and wants to marry. He needed to talk about it.
“What happened?” I asked.
“She posted photos of herself in a bikini on Facebook,” he said. “When I first saw them, I was a little uncomfortable, but I let it go. Then I saw the comments that some of her male Facebook ‘friends’ had posted about the photos.”
“What kind of comments?” I asked.
“Things about her breasts and what they would like to do with her,” he said. “When I saw the comments, I asked her to take down the photos. She refused. We had a big fight over it.”
Danny said he would have felt better if Aigul had at least offered to take down the offensive comments. But she never did.
She gave two arguments for wanting to keep the photos up, Danny said. One was essentially that the photos captured her essence as a young woman – so why shouldn’t they be on her Facebook page?
The other argument was that Danny had over-reacted to what Aigul called the “stupid comments” that some Facebook “friends” had made.
“But the comments weren’t stupid – they were lewd,” Danny said. “I had men saying nasty things about the woman I loved, and I couldn’t do a thing about it.”
Danny called about 25 friends over three days to ask for their opinions about the issue. All but one said Aigul should take down the photos because of the pain they were causing him.
A friend named Assel told Danny she’d like to see the photos before commenting to him, so he told her how to locate them.
Assel called back a few minutes later. “Danny, I’m sorry to tell you this, but I don’t think this girl thinks of you as a boyfriend. Maybe she just wants an interesting short-term situation with you. Those photos are really sexy. She should take them down. If she doesn’t, she doesn’t care about you.”
Danny’s heart sank to hear this blunt assessment from someone who’d known him for four years.
He said he’d wanted to discuss the situation with Aigul face to face, but she was in Almaty at the time.
“So the fight played out in the worst possible way – over the Internet,” Danny said. “I should have waited until her return so we could talk in person. But I was so upset that I wanted a resolution immediately.”
So Danny began emailing her about his displeasure.
“I used harsh words in my emails that I would never have used with her in person,” he said. “The fight escalated to the point that she said she wanted to leave me.”
Danny emitted a deep sigh, then continued.
“When I talked with my friends about the situation, I asked if they’d had disputes with their partners over Facebook photos, and a number had.”
The disagreements usually involved young, attractive Kazakh or Russian women posting sexy photos on Facebook, then not wanting to take the photos down when their boyfriends got upset.
In most cases, the women took the photos down to keep their boyfriends, but not before there was considerable friction over the issue.
“I was at fault in the fight for coming on too strong about the lewd comments,” Danny said. “But Aigul and I are in a serious relationship – nine months now – so I thought she’d respect my feelings about this issue.”
In the end, he said, he couldn’t help but feel she’d chosen Facebook over him.
“I also began wondering for the first time if she were posting such photos because she needed attention from men,” Danny said. “I never thought so before, but I began wondering when she wouldn’t take them down.”
Danny said that he’d read occasional news stories about Facebook posing a threat to relationships but that he hadn’t paid a lot of attention to them -- because the stories were about someone else.
This was the first time the threat had hit home, he said.
“You know, what happened showed me firsthand the danger that not just Facebook but the Internet in general poses to relationships,” Danny said.
He said that if the fight had not played out over the Internet, he thinks he and Aigul could have worked things out.
“My friend Yuri told me that his girlfriend Ksenia once posted sexy photos on Facebook that made him uncomfortable,” Danny said. “He did the smart thing. He asked her to discuss it in person.”
When the two met, Ksenia could see the pain the photos were causing Yuri. She could also see how much he loved her. Ksenia took the photos down.
Danny said he recalled previous rough spots with Aigul – and he realized that many had played out through text messaging. Texting is as cold and impersonal a medium as the Internet for trying to resolve a dispute – and thus fraught with the same danger, he noted.
“I was stupid when I started a fight with Aigul on the Internet,” Danny said. “You can’t show your partner your sincerity, your love, when you’re communicating by Internet or text messaging. All she can see are the words you use, not the context. If you make a mistake and use words that are too harsh, it can be devastating.
“If we had discussed our differences in person, so that Aigul could have felt my love, seen my sincerity, I don’t think our disagreement would have escalated like it did,” Danny said.
A couple of hours after talking with Danny, I began thinking about his observation that the wired world poses a real danger to relationships these days.
The Internet and text messaging are great business tools. They can facilitate business across borders instantaneously – a communication dimension unimaginable just two decades ago.
And Facebook and other social media can keep family, friends and lovers in touch – but as Danny found out, they can not only strengthen relationships but shatter them.
When it comes to a love story, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication. It is what brings couples closer -- not text messaging, email, social media or other kinds of electronic communication.
Any couple who ignores this maxim is putting their relationship in jeopardy.
It’s one more trap in our high-tech age.
Would any of you readers care to comment on these questions or offer other opinions to this article:
1. Since Danny and Aigul were in a serious relationship, should Aigul have posted the sexy Facebook photos in the first place?
2. After seeing the lewd comments, did Danny have the right to ask Aigul to take the sexy photos down, or was he over-reacting?
3. Do you have examples from your own or friends’ experience of the Internet in general or Facebook in particular posing dangers to relationships?