April 22, 2024


An Instagram search for the hashtag #affectiveresponsibility returns more than 66,300 posts. If the same concept is explored on Twitter we find it among the first results a viral tweet with more than 112,000 I like. The data seems to suggest that this concept is fashionable. affective responsibility It refers to the fact that our actions have consequences for other people and, therefore, we must pay attention to how we relate, applying the respect, communication, empathy and care that each link requires. It is understood as necessary in any type of relationship, be it family, friendship, couple or sexual, and more or less long in time. Affective responsibility leads us to take into account the other person and their emotions, although not to take responsibility for them.

This concept is not new. It arose in the eighties of the last century in the context of polyamorous relationships to make it clear that these are not a anything goes, rather, any established link must be built ethically and taking care of all parties. When leaving the monogamous norm, everything has to be very transparent, since there are no implicit rules that can be applied.

From there it has passed to any type of relationship and has become popular. Was necessary? Wasn’t it clear that we should take care of the couple? Yes, it is (although there are those who put it into practice better or worse), but it turns out that the way we relate to each other has changed. Not all sexual-affective ties are classified as a couple and that can lead to a decrease in commitment and to give less seriousness to that relationship.

In the 40dB survey for EL PAÍS on the perception of love, 60% of the people surveyed considered that it is currently easier to find sexual relations and 53% that it is easier to flirt. However, four out of 10 respondents claimed that today it is more difficult to find a partner.

This is what the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, in 2003, defined as “liquid love”, a concept with which he portrayed current relationships, in which there is “a lack of solidity, warmth and a tendency to be increasingly fleeting and superficial.” ”. People are perceived as merchandise to satisfy some need. Consumerism applied to affective relationships.

Applications and social networks as means to interact

Applications and social networks have become one of the main places to meet people. From apps specific to it (such as Tinder or Grindr) to social networks with another purpose (Instagram or Twitter) become the new bars where to say “do you study or work?”. And this environment, so conducive to socialization, also facilitates certain relational phenomena. He ghosting, disappearing when it seemed that everything was going well, is the most common of them all. According to a 2018 study by the Canadian University of Western Ontario, 72% of the people surveyed had suffered it and 64.5% had done it.

The consumerism of liquid love has a very evident reflection in dating applications. We see a catalog of people, like the one who goes to buy clothes. When we get tired of a piece of clothing, we leave it forgotten in a corner of the closet. Similarly, if we are no longer interested in that person, we leave it in seen or we block it directly. Although disappearing from someone’s life is not new, it is true that in social networks with a couple of clicks it is solved. Fast and easy.

The consequences of acting like this are not innocuous. They can cause frustration, disappointment and even insecurity or low self-esteem. If someone is not in their prime, it is easy for them to wonder why they have stopped talking to them if everything was going well, what they have done wrong, to blame themselves or belittle themselves. There are people who with their irresponsible way of acting can do a lot of damage. Perhaps they are not aware or do not care, but they are leaving corpses emotional.

Gender issue?

The way we socialize has traditionally made women more attentive to the emotional, more focused on details and care. And to men, more focused on the productive. Would it be falling into stereotypes to think that they have more deficiencies in terms of developing affective responsibility?

If the messages that can be read on social networks are reviewed (for example, the tweet cited above), many are from women demanding more care from men. But according to the studies carried out (which are few and with disparate results) a different vision is obtained. According to one conducted by the consumer website CreditLoan on how people ended relationships, they had made ghosting 22.4% women, compared to 13.9% men. And in another article in the cultural magazine mic.com, the percentage is 49.97% women and 50% men. So it’s probably not just a question of gender, but of the person, their life experiences and their empathy and consideration towards the links they establish.

In any case, affective responsibility should not be a matter of the person and their sensitivity. Let alone it should be considered a fashion expression. We should start to integrate it as standard in our way of relating. Without it, it is not possible to build healthy relationships.

Arola Poch is a psychologist from the University of Barcelona, ​​a graduate in Audiovisual Communication from the UOC and a sexologist from the Camilo José Cela University. She is an expert in sexual education and dissemination, with several published books.

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