Hey, the message reads, take a look at this. A brief pause. And then a screenshot comes in.
It’s social media. A photograph of one of my friends. A very pretty selfie. Nothing even that too far out there. My friend looks nice. I search the photo for clues of context, of why this is even being sent to me.
Some typing dots bounce and roll as the person messaging me types.
How are you okay with that?
I scrutinize the photo once again. I’m totally flummoxed. Feel ditzy and lost. So I give up. With what? I text. Not sure what you’re talking about.
A series of emojis populate, indicating shock, surprise. Some of it is kind of creative, reminds me of the pictograph stories in puzzle books or the magazines when I was a kid. Where they sub symbols for words, and you’re left to riddle it out. Although this is pretty obvious. That they’re shocked I’m not upset.
But it’s still not obvious why.
A flurry back and forth and then they explain: My partner has liked this friend’s picture. My attractive female friend.
How are you okay with this? they ask again.
And I’m so confused. They know I’m polyamorous. And even if I wasn’t, I’ve never been one to understand all the brouhaha about “micro-cheating.” Look, with the right mindset, anything can seem harmful (nocebo effect anyone?). You can make yourself go ballistic if you read meaning into every little action. See prosocial behaviors as threats.
Ai yai yai.
I do my best to explain this to the person messaging me. To convey it in a way they’ll get. And it kinda works, but then they say something that knocks me back on my heels:
Look, Page, you have to protect your relationship from the Internet. I’m surprised that you wouldn’t know this. You write about relationships and all. That’s the next article you should write: How to Protect Your Relationship from the Internet.
How to Protect Your Relationship from the Internet
How do you protect your relationship from the Internet? You don’t.
Look, I know there’s a multi-billion dollar industry devoted to these kinds of concerns, but the reality is that good relationships don’t need protection from external sources. Of any kind.
Instead, they’re built up strong from the inside. Bolstered by the connections between the people within them.
And the fight against external forces can actually tear a perfectly good relationship apart — especially if people jump to conclusions or find themselves worrying about things like whether someone liked a selfie.
(Not to mention it could have been a butt-like.)