So when does adult social networking become a problem?
First, I’ll explain the B8M8 Network and the nature of the site.
I began B8M8 almost a year ago in response to the number of heterosexual men on adult forums and social sites seeking other guys to enjoy mutual masturbation with. The nature of the site is very specific. Men join for free, create a profile and add images to their galleries, join regional groups, view video media and communicate with other members.
It has always been open to straight, bisexual and gay guys from around the world, and their sexual identity is often not a consideration in the group. The relationships our members are in also vary.
While predominantly focussed on men who seek friendships with other men where masturbation and porn sharing can be enjoyed in reality (several regional groups arrange group masturbation sessions where straight, bi and gay guys attend), many also limit their involvement to exchanging porn, email communication and web cam masturbation.
The ethos of the group is a direct reflection of the research carried out by my colleague Conran Thomas in his book Seven Pints. Indeed, many members of the group identify masturbation as a fetish, able to be enjoyed between male friends regardless of their sexual identity.
Recently, a member of the group requested that his account be deleted. We rarely have members leave, and even more rarely do we have members who leave explain their reasons for doing so.
The departing member suggested that his reason for leaving was that he found he was spending too much time on the site, and that he feared that this was affecting his personal life and relationship.
We are all aware of the addictive nature of traditional social networking sites such as Facebook. Miles of column inches have been dedicated to the discussion of whether the use of Facebook is damaging to the economy (workers using the site in the office etc). Likewise, discussions relating to privacy issues, cyber bullying and the social affects of Facebook are not exactly in short supply. But when it comes to adult social networks, these issues are perhaps even more relevant and potentially concerning unless dealt with and managed properly.
People with highly addictive personalities can indeed become obsessive about specific things. This can often be found in addiction to smoking, coffee and alcohol. But in more modern times, this can also be found in pornography, social sites and internet media in general.
One thing we have to consider is that something becomes a “problem” when it starts to adversely affect your life. Just as nicotine and alcohol are a problem because of the health implications, internet use, pornography and social networking becomes a problem when it starts to affect how you live your life. If you find yourself missing meals because you need to be on Facebook a little longer, it is a problem. If you find yourself unprepared for your working day because you were awake until 3 am surfing for porn, it is a problem.
No doubt, the best action to take is to lower your use of the internet. Or, to find a distraction. It is difficult to achieve and relies exclusively on willpower unless you’re willing to take more complex actions such as physically limiting your internet access.
Facebook already has issues relating to the privacy of members. For adult social networks this is even more important. Thankfully, the system we use for the B8M8 Network allows members to expressly select the privacy option for every aspect of their information. In their profile they can select who has access to every piece of information, and in media uploads members can select again who has visible access to each image, blog post or embedded video.
This is perhaps more vital for an adult social network, because identifying marks and information is then associated directly to a user, and the site itself.
Of course, the best solution is to always select the correct privacy setting for each image, file and piece of potentially identifying information.
But to take this further, it is also perhaps more suitable in this environment to obscure or blur any identifying marks in images. Many members limit their images to avoid the display of tattoo’s, environment, birthmarks and so on.
Aside from this, the added protection afforded by “association” is an automatic safeguard. If a person you happen to know discovers you and identifies you on such a site, they have to have been a member too, or at least had an interest in that site. Some suggest that this automatically removes their ability to use it against you.
One of the most important aspects of being a member of a site like B8M8 (and any other adult site for that matter) is the removal of identifying information from the PC being used.
For those in relationships, the risks of being discovered using such a site by a wife or partner is a real concern.
The moral implications are down to the individual, but I have to say that we all need our own privacy. We all need outlets that a partner might not understand, and if a person is not harming their partner, or behaving in a manner that they know their partner would not accept, there is no real reason that I can see for limiting your personal existence in such a way.
Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own health and well-being. And that’s why I support the ideas of the member who left. He felt that there was a personal problem that he needed to deal with and he recognized that he needed to separate himself from social networking for a while.
Anything can become a problem when it starts to affect your life adversely. And it is absolutely wise to consider what actions are needed to limit or reverse the negative affects.
But when it comes to relationships, I’m afraid you’re on your own. While I might not find anything wrong with having sexual cyber partners, many others do indeed view it as cheating. That’s between you, your partner, and your moral compass.