Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cyber-Infidelity and the Realness of Virtual Interaction

I recently came across an article discussing divorces resulting from the infidelities of marital partners. The article was online; so was the infidelity. The article described an ongoing phenomenon in which an increasing number of relationships end because one partner was cheating, not physically, but virtually.

The expansion of the range and scope of online interaction has been made possible by the runaway popularity of internet communities, social networking sites such as Friendster and Facebook, and massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life, which is where the infidelity referred to in the article occurred. The connectivity offered by all these virtual worlds has given rise to very real consequences in the real world.

In the realms of the cyber-world, many of the barriers to human interaction are eliminated. Geographical location, social strata, race and even gender are inexistent or inconsequential factors; people of all ages, from all nations, from all walks of life interact on a daily basis online, forming real relationships, real friendships, with real emotional attachment. The increasing detail and complexity of avatars, the virtual images representing individual users, lends an all-too-realistic feel to these online interactions.

It is clear, then, that our society, and the laws that define it, must adjust to these new realities. The expansion of human interaction is a powerful consequence of the digital age; for both good and ill, we must learn to deal with what it means to be truly connected to the world.

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