Ask Jacy: The Naked Selfie

Dear Jacy,

Back a few years ago I was in a relationship with a man I’ll call D. I can now see that he was not good for me. But instead of simply breaking it off, I began flirting – online with an old boyfriend. Things got a bit heated and D discovered a picture I’d sent. It was not very subtle, or very dressed. I’m no longer in contact with either of those men, but every time a scandal like the Anthony Weiner sexting story pops up, I am so embarrassed for my bad behavior. While other people laugh about it, I just want to cringe.

– Only fully dressed selfies now

We’re human. That’s why it’s hard for your friends not to have a smug laugh at Anthony Weiner. He got caught sexting for the third time. And this was after his story was showcased in a documentary about his reformation.

But he’s human too. And that’s why he was so reckless, so desperate, so addicted to something — sex, attention, lust – that he gambled his entire life. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying he’s innocent of bad behavior. And I’m not saying he deserves our forgiveness – that’s between him and the people who have loved him.

But obviously this has become a national addiction. It’s more human than many of may admit to. Part of the smugness we feel is our narrative … I would never do that. I would never be so careless, so needy, so unfaithful, so…human. But research tells us, yeah, there’s a good chance you would. Maybe already have. Possibly will in the future. Statistics say over 50 percent of us are likely to have affairs. Some between the sheets. Some between checking e-mail and news headlines. So, you’re likely not the only one of your friends who has done this. Maybe the more honest narrative is …I would never get caught.

Today’s social media, which is designed to make us feel connected, is not helping. Facebook, for instance, is an international success. Today, 2 of every 7 people in the world are on the social media giant, because it fulfills our human need for connection, in a day and age when that contact may be sorely lacking.

Chat conversations on Facebook, or direct messages on Twitter or Snapchat are personal and intimate. It’s so easy to strike up an exchange. The amount of time it takes to go from “liking” a cat meme to taking a naked selfie, can be about the equivalent of a lap at the Indy 500.

As much as we may laugh at how ridiculous Weiner is, many of us have fallen for a stray compliment, reveling in that tiny jolt of excitement. And when conversation feels as intimate as a kiss, chatting is that first step toward digital infidelity. Once the ante is upped and the sexual connotations begin, that very indiscretion furthers the sense that this is something special, unique going on. Weiner likely felt that this personal, private act of sending each other dirty pics ensured that the pics would remain their secret. Certainly the first time. Likely the second time. Yep, even the third time.

Today, many of us spend more time online and often, more time away from our spouse. It can be a business trip. Or simply more affluence which allows people more freedom. And time of the day counts too. I used to tell my teenagers nothing good happens after midnight. And that’s doubly true online. The unique sense of privacy that the Internet affords holds even more true at two in the morning. Somehow, chatting one-on-one, late at night, makes it a bit more comfortable to say something a little personal, something slightly provocative. And those conversations feel so special, so intimate. It’s human nature to take an experience that may affect a lot of people and see it only through our own lens. Only we are feeling this intense attraction, this undeniable pull.

Those past relationships are past. You feel badly about your behavior, which likely means you won’t be repeating Anthony Weiner’s repeated offenses. Take some time to understand what made you send those texts. Once you figure out what you weren’t getting make sure what you need is in your next relationship. And then, do something very human, forgive yourself.

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