Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ABC Nightline: The Internet, dating, private investigators, and marriage cheats


On Tuesday night, May 19, ABC "Nightline" covered the Internet along with dating, sex and marriage, way beyond the implications of the Craigslist problem, to cover the use of the web for matchmaking and also to detect cheats.

The early part of the broadcast covered the “values” problem: physical attractiveness (more a concern for women, but not always) and wealth (more a problem for men, but not exclusively). It got existential: would you date this person if he/she didn’t have ….? Probably not.

It reminds me of the whole idea of speeddating.

Then the broadcast showed how private investigators gleefully enforce “the sanctity of marriage”, even with cameras embedded inside pens, as they go into restaurants. It's also possible to hire "Magnum PI" types to sleuth the deeper Internet for attempted "cheats" - a kind of variation of the "online reputation defense" problem.

Pro-marriage forces say, however, that traditional marriage is threatened by outside competition, not just pornography but unrealistic images in the media, as well as more public attention to other lifestyles (that might include gay marriage). Couples are sometimes challenged to remain interested in one another when unavoidable hardships and challenges come. Think about how the media has recently covered the wife of Sen. John Edwards. There's another aspect that Nightline could have covered: marriage confers the partners some "power" over people within a family who have not married and had their own kids, in many cultures (and filial responsibility is becoming an increasingly troublesome issue given demographics). All of this is on the rocks when a marriage is "threatened" by infidelity.

Martin Bashir hosted the broadcast. Martin Bashir and Steven Baker have a related text report “Sex Addict Leads Secret Life Online” here.

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