Friday, July 22, 2011

Living Out Loud and in Living Color 2011

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Tweet Me, Sex me, Know Me
by Dr. James Wadley

We go to the internet for everything from news, job searches, and gifts to sexual partners. The pervasiveness of social media has created new skills among people using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like to enhance their professional and personal lives. Social media and internet “chat rooms” offer individuals an opportunity to network with scores of people who have similar interests to develop friendships and relationships. There seems to be a website or social media outlet for everyone and it has impacted the way that individuals express intimacy to one another. For example, I recently had a client who felt comfortable with sharing naked pictures by phone text messaging but was “afraid” to have a discussion with his potential partner about safe sex. I had another client who felt comfortable talking about her likes/dislikes sexually by chatting on the internet but thought it to be “unromantic” to talk about sex history and sexually transmitted infections with her partner in person.

It’s true the internet has created various forums for people to have personal exchanges, yet it hasn’t perfected a space for meaningful and healthy dialogue about sexuality and relational expectations. That is why it’s important to ask questions and not make assumptions based on profile pages that may or may not be totally accurate, especially when it comes to health status. Too many people are quick to get relative information (e.g., email or phone number), and become intimate with someone they may not really. If hooking up and having sex with you only takes a few tweets, text messages, emails, or picture exchanges, what does that say about the value that you place on yourself and your sexuality? SLOW DOWN!!!

Slowing down and taking time out to get to know someone across contexts can save you a lot of money, angst and trepidation at the health clinic, and possibly save your life. Anyone can present anything using social media and the internet. It typically takes weeks/months/years to really get to know someone and how they behave around various people (e.g., around your family, friends, co-workers, etc.), time periods, (e.g., weekends, holidays, leisure, work hours, etc.) and situations (e.g., when you/him/her are bored, angry, silly, etc. around each other).

Here are a six important items you may want to include in getting to know someone:

1.Have you ever had a sexually transmitted infection? If so, which one and how was it treated?

2.When was the last time you had unprotected vaginal, oral, anal sex?

3.When is the last time you got tested for a sexually transmitted infection including HIV?

4.How many partners do you currently have?

5.What happens if I/you get pregnant?

6.What do you consider “cheating” to be?

Also consider an in-person discussion (in a safe space) with your potential/current mate as opposed to Twitter or Facebook because you will want to see the person’s body language when having a sensitive talk. Give yourself a chance to truly learn about who your partner really is and is not. That deserves more than 140 characters.
Dr. James Wadley is an Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Human Services Program at Lincoln University. He is a licensed professional counselor and marriage, family, and sexuality therapist in the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is also a Contributor to Need free HIV testing or info on having a healthy sexual life? Contact  or

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