BY Annie Zhai

Attraction + Intimacy = Sex and/or Relationship. Right?

In our digital age, many uni students find themselves tumbling in and out of flings and relationships. Initial attraction can occur when you talk to the hottie at a bar or by a simple swipe on your phone. However, sustaining that attraction and fostering emotional or physical intimacy is another issue that can spark the micro cheating debate amongst couples.

When I mention the phrase ‘casual sex’ you immediately think of Tinder right? Well, I’m not surprised since, according to Pedestrian TV, 15% of Australians are on the app. Tinder has often copped a bad reputation for being superficial and narcissistic since users curate their profile description and photos to project a particular image. Whether it be ‘hot surf guard’ or ‘just back from Bali’ type, people utilise this carefully constructed persona to initiate the laws of attraction. This reminds me of a time in the middle of Year 11 when my friend said to me ‘Let’s play Tinder’. Being a naive little person that I was I asked ‘Oh is that a game?’. She sat me down and started explaining the nooks and crannies of the app. As she showed me the swiping functions she would make comments on the appearance of guys.

It was at that moment I realised that the traditional rules of attraction did not apply online. Prior to smartphones and apps, you would meet a stranger at a party or talk to someone at a bar. People had a few minutes to enable their personality and smile to shine and make a good impression. However, people aren’t afforded that luxury anymore. On online dating and hook up apps you only have one picture to make an impression amongst other profiles. Online messaging can be difficult to convey someone’s personality because sometimes a sarcastic remark can be perceived as a rude one due to the absence of tone.

A common complaint I hear from Tinder users is that the person looks different in real life. This may lead those who use hook up apps to act differently, and my friend Harris* is the epitome of this issue. Harris once texted me a screenshot of a furious message sent by a girl from Tinder saying that he was a jerk (to politely put it) after he said that he was ‘interested in her like that anymore’ and left after planning to stay the night. I asked him what made her seem different and he simply replied that ‘she’s not as hot as her profile’. Needless to say, I did a facepalm after reading that message.

I’m sure everyone has sent a flirty text to someone before. Whether it was for fun or just to test the chemistry, we have all sent flirty messages to friends and lovers. This year the term ‘micro cheating’ exploded all over the internet and caused numerous debates about whether emotional intimacy was as bad as sexual intimacy. I remember when I was in Shanghai my friend Kelly* and I had a discussion about whether being emotionally close to someone constitutes as cheating. From her perspective sexual intimacy fosters emotional closeness and sparks all those oxytocin levels; which constituted as micro cheating because it could lead to sexual intimacy.

To a certain extent, I agreed with her. In university, we meet wonderful people from other states or countries and sometimes they come and go. As a person who used to be dating a German exchange student, the term ‘micro cheating’ made me realise that all the listed acts of cheating were not also romantic actions but also platonic. When couples are living in completely different states or countries it can be hard to physically meet each other and have dates as any normal couple would. Naturally, we would continue to go out and meet new people who are physically in the same area and bond over shared interests or experiences. However, when we become emotionally close with friends, it does not necessarily mean that we are betraying our S.O’s trust in us. It just means we share a bond. Yes, flirty texts can evolve into physical cheating but it can also be banter or just a harmless text. The emergence of micro cheating creates an atmosphere of paranoia that only breeds distrust which is toxic to a relationship. However, that is just my opinion (one that Kelly certainly disagrees with).

In the end, the way attraction is initiated has evolved and led some people to do a double take on their tinder match or question a flirty text. However, I think that we can all agree that social and online media have to potential to forge or split a relationship or fling.

*The name of friends have been altered.

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