By Barbara Hollands

“Mxit addicts are like other addicts they start meeting a legitimate need for love or caring in an illegitimate way.” He wants to know who my contacts are, but I know he talks to other women and that he gets naked pictures of them. The trendy new cellphone chat system, Mxit, is luring teens and adults into a sordid underworld of sex, treachery, pornography and infidelity. Eastern Cape users this week told how their addiction to the cheap messaging system, which until now has been seen as just another fashionable plaything for teens had become so strong it destroyed their marriages and jobs.

One middle-aged woman told how she had left her husband for a man she met in a chatroom on Mxit. She gave up her job and marriage to move to Pretoria, only to find he was a much younger man who still lived with his mother. In another case, a self-confessed Mxit addict told his friends how he accessed the Port Elizabeth chatroom to meet women to have sex with. Despite having a steady girlfriend, he has set himself a target to sleep with 100 women and is already on number 23.

Regular users say Mxit chatrooms are inundated with men making lewd suggestions. Another user admitted to sending naked photographs of herself to a man she met in a chatroom and became infatuated with.

“That was a crazy thing to do because they could be circulating on the internet now,” she said. Mxit is an instant messaging programme that lets users chat to others who are logged on via the mobile internet rather than using a standard SMS. Addiction counsellor Steve Buys said obsessive use of Mxit could be termed an addiction because it affected normal relationships, work and family.

“Mxit addicts are like other addicts, they start meeting a legitimate need for love or caring in an illegitimate way,” said Buys.

“They replace face-to-face connections with electronic relationships and these will always be superficial and involve people lying and deceiving each other. “Also, when it comes to real relationships these people might later have trouble forming real connections.” Port Elizabeth book-keeper Debbie Hardy (not her real name) told Weekend Post she came close to ending her marriage after meeting a Pretoria man on one of the Mxit chatrooms and falling in love with him.

After conducting a passionate cellphone relationship with the man, which included the two exchanging full-frontal photographs of their naked bodies, Hardy resigned from her job, left her husband and went to Pretoria to meet her cellphone lover.

Hardy said she was “definitely addicted to Mxit” and would text her lover at all times of the day and night. Her bubble burst when she met the Pretoria man after she resigned from her job and left her husband in December. “He wasn’t what I expected at all. He was younger than me and very immature and he was still living with his mother, so I came back to my husband and he forgave me.”

Hardy says she also introduced her 20-year-old sister to Mxit and was horrified when she fell for the same Pretoria man.

“She went for the same guy and when I found out I blew a gasket. She also sent him nude photographs of herself. She left her boyfriend and their two-year-old daughter, caught a bus to Pretoria and stayed with him for a week and slept with him. When it didn’t work out she came back and her boyfriend gave her another chance, but then she fell for another guy on Mxit and again left and went to Pietermaritzburg and had sex with him.

“But when she came back her boyfriend didn’t want her back and he is now fighting for the custody of their child. That really opened my eyes about Mxit and I feel so guilty because I introduced her to it.” Hardy says she has a male friend who has decided to become a Casanova”. She said he accessed the Port Elizabeth chatroom on Mxit to meet women to have sex with.

“He told my husband he has set a target to sleep with 100 women and he is already on number 23, even though he has a girlfriend. He works for a bank and is intelligent with a nice car and a good salary, but women should be careful of him because he just wants to use them.” Post Elizabeth debtors and creditors clerk Tanya Elliott (not her real name), 24, said she first hooked up to Mxit when she heard about it from a colleague and says she is now addicted to it and that it has ruined her relationship with her boyfriend with whom she has a two- year-old child.

“At first I wasn’t interested, but then seven months ago I put it on my cellphone because it is a cheaper way to stay in touch with friends and it also has chatrooms where I made a few good friends.”

The trouble started when Elliott could no longer control the amount of time she was spending on Mxit. Elliott says her boyfriend also uses Mxit and this has caused jealous fights between them. “He wants to know who my contacts are, but I know he talks to other women and that he gets naked pictures of them. Our relationship is not the same any more because of Mxit. Once my friend set him up by flirting with him on Mxit under another name and he said he wanted pictures of her and to meet her, so I know he is unfaithful.”

Childline National co-ordinator Joan van Niekerk said addiction to internet chatrooms and Mxit chatrooms was similar and that children could easily access both, but that advances in technology should not be blamed if paedophiles abuse it to access children.

“When we first had phones, there were people who made obscene phone calls, then with the internet, paedophiles learnt how to misuse the technology. There will always be people who exploit innovations in technology and our responsibility as adults and children is to protect ourselves from this.”

Source: Weekend Post