Michelle Loewenstein and Kulani Nkuna
3 minute read
23 Jan 2014
6:00 am

He Said/ She Said: Does flirting via text message count as cheating?

Michelle Loewenstein and Kulani Nkuna

Is text messaging and flirting with other women cheating? Here's what either side of the gender divide had to say.

Picture: www.sxc.hu.

She Said:

I recently learned a new term – “emotional fluffer”.

The source of this nugget was actress Zooey Deschanel in New Girl. While I wouldn’t usually turn to a sitcom for life lessons, this particular one makes a lot of sense to me. It basically refers to someone who gives you support, but isn’t the person you are in a relationship with. In other words, they give you something that you’re not getting from the person you climb into bed with.

I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t be thrilled to know that their significant other had an emotional fluffer. Which brings me to this question: does virtual flirting count as cheating?

The most popular answer to this is “no”. No one has been touched on their studio, so what’s the harm, right? I think this answer works – until you actually find out that your partner has an emotional fluffer on the other end of their phone or Facebook account. Imagine that this was a time when apples were just fruit and the closest thing to a blackberry was a mulberry.

E-mailing sweet nothings or sending a cutesy emoticon wasn’t possible. You’d have to actually have a face-to-face flirt or a warm hug or kiss.

I’m pretty sure that no guy would want to walk in on his girl being emotionally fluffed by some rugged rugby player.

So why is flirting via text okay? The implication is that your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t getting something from you so he or she is seeking it elsewhere.

To my mind, a stupid drunken mishap is far easier to try and forgive than your significant other forming a bond with someone else. An emotional connection is far more difficult to establish than a physical one, so surely the need for an emotional fluffer highlights the need for a re-evaluation of the relationship itself?

To my mind, if he’s sending “X”s to another girl, perhaps it’s time he was your ex.

VIRTUAL LINK. It's possible to form an emotional connection with someone via text messages. Picture: www.sxc.hu.

VIRTUAL LINK. It’s possible to form an emotional connection with someone via text messages. Picture: www.sxc.hu.

He Said:

Is text messaging and flirting with other women cheating? The answer can be found in how the Johannesburg lifestyle is designed.

A recent ANC election campaign urged young voters to “step up their hustle” by voting for the party. This is a campaign the ruling party was heavily criticised for. But their brains trust or creative agency was not completely misguided.

The “hustle” represents the entrepreneurial spirit as borrowed from American rappers and moguls P Diddy, Jay-Z, Russell Simmons and others. Back in the day, people flocked to this city in search of work and wealth.

Jozi is the eternal hustler city.

The employed have their side hustles, which they attend to after their nine to five jobs and on weekends. This makes them busy individuals, and therein lies the essence of Johannesburg life. Relationships have to be tended to within this hustling milieu. Capitalist souls manage to do their regular job, engage in extracurricular enterprises and still maintain their relationships with their partners.

Amid all the activity, the Jozi spirit forces people to keep still. And you know what they say about idle hands doing the devil’s work, right?

So at times when the business has died down, the girlfriend or wife is not available and friends have other commitments, your
hands are idle. And in this technologically connected age, free hands inevitably pick up a cellphone, where you will find Facebook, Whatsapp and text messaging options. Text messages with the opposite sex will be exchanged in an effort to keep busy and to actually see how far they could go.

For men who undoubtedly love their partners, it can be about seeing if they still have the charm and smoothness of days gone by. This does not necessarily indicate a dent in their relationship – it simply comes from folks having too much time on their hands. Text flirting is in part about fantasy as well, and most leave it there, never taking it beyond the virtual realm.

Text messaging is not cheating – it’s the work of idle hands.