The metaverse just made relationships a whole lot more complicated than they were before!
By now, we all know that the metaverse is coming to take over our day-to-day lives. From virtual offices to virtual fashion shows, anything you can imagine can take place in the metaverse—yes, even sex! Porn games are popping up left, right and center on the metaverse.
But if you can do anything, the distinction between what is right and wrong becomes blurry. This is a particularly crucial concern for relationships. From awkward first dates, difficult conversations to getting serious and moving in together, relationships come with a lot of complexity. Technology only adds to this complexity by increasing the possibilities of infidelity on platforms, like OnlyFans, and dating apps, like Tinder and Hinge. Besides these apps, what are the other bright red flags for cheating? Let’s find out!
What are the signs of digital cheating?
Picture this, you meet an ex-partner in a virtual reality game you used to play together back in the day. You both enter the game, and suddenly your consciousness is transplanted to the characters you used to play as. You “accidentally” kiss in the game, and that becomes the start of an in-game sexual relationship between you two, even though you are happily married in real life (IRL). That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Sign 1: You are aware of but don’t mind your actions
Well, something very similar happened in “Striking Vipers”, an episode from the fifth season of Black Mirror, a show which discusses the effects of technology in a dystopian future. This is perhaps the best depiction of what cheating could look like in the metaverse. SX Noir, President of Women of Sextech, says that if a person is aware of their actions in the digital realm and doesn’t mind indulging in sexual activity, it counts as infidelity.
Sign 2: You are hiding it from your partner(s)
Some might consider indulging in any sexual activity in the metaverse as an extension of masturbation. But if you are not telling your partner about the virtual sex or any kind of romantic interaction you have with somebody in the metaverse, then, according to sex therapist Holly Richmond, it is cheating. She says that if you feel like your partner would be upset, then you are having an affair, even though you haven’t actually been involved with anyone IRL. To put it into context, if your partner has no clue that your metaverse avatar is engaging in sexual activity with another avatar, be it virtual sex or the use of teledildonics (e.g. a Bluetooth sex toy), then of course that would be cheating as well.
Sign 3: Ignoring your IRL partner for virtual pleasure
Actively hiding what you do in the metaverse from your partner is pretty much lying to them. Arguably, you may believe that you are doing no harm to your partner. But if it escalates into your disregard for your significant other, it is clear that not only is your body involved, but your emotion is also at play. More importantly, this will affect your partner and your relationship negatively. Clearly, this is a major indicator of cheating.
How to deal with digital infidelity?
Well, we can’t tell you what counts as cheating for you because everyone has different interpretations of their relationships. However, all sorts of relationships come down to communication and trust. It is important for romantic partners to discuss with each other what is off-limits before exploring any of their digital fantasies, says Richmond.
Some might think that “looking around”, be it on Tinder or on Second Life sex clubs, is okay as long as you are not actively sexting or indulging in virtual sex. However, others may consider that as a signal of their partner’s heart being absent from the relationship. Therefore, a deep discussion about what you expect of each other and what is considered “crossing the line” will help you create healthy boundaries in your relationship.
If your partner comes up to you to disclose their virtual infidelity, talk about it; and if the betrayal upsets you, explain why. “Maybe invite them in with you so you go into the VR world together, or show your partner what it is so they’re not as threatened,” Richmond added.
How technology complicates relationships
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that we are all addicted to technology. In one way or another, it affects how we engage with each other. A study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2014 found that digital media lowers children’s ability to read other people’s emotions. Some studies have even linked smartphone addiction to depression in teens and adults. As it becomes harder to gauge emotions, it also becomes harder to act in ways to prevent hurting our partner’s feelings. If this is how mobiles can affect us, imagine what it would be like to interact over the metaverse!
With all our interactions taking place over the screen these days, would a transition to a virtual realm with digital avatars really make a difference? Or will it make it more awkward for us to talk to each other IRL? Also, since the metaverse allows you to customize absolutely everything (even the genitalia of your sexual partner), would you really be satisfied with your IRL relationship?
For now, we have a lot more questions than answers. Suffice to say, it wouldn’t be all negative. Communicating through the metaverse could be great for partners who are in long-distance relationships. They could go on dates inside the metaverse, have sex and move in together into virtual houses. To make the most of this technology, it is important to engage in discussions about healthy boundaries with our partners and reflect on our desires before acting on them, lest we make mistakes that we end up regretting later.
Header image courtesy of Freepik