Facebook – The Source of All Future Infidelity?

I’m a newly and happily married man, but I’ve gotta say – I spend an inordinate amount of time peeking into the lives of others on Facebook. I’m sure I’m not alone. Strangers that I’ve met at parties for ten minutes, friends from summer camp in the 80’s, various high school acquaintances, and, of course, virtually every ex-girlfriend and hookup with whom I maintained warm feelings.

The new voyeurism extends beyond mere curiosity and nearly forces us to contemplate our own happiness by comparing ourselves to others.

Yes, there’s a basic voyeurism at play here – which is no surprise as the entire Internet seems to be built on it. But this voyeurism runs far deeper than your basic porn site, celebrity gossip site, or user-generated forum (like this one). The new voyeurism extends beyond mere curiosity and nearly forces us to contemplate our own happiness by comparing ourselves to others.

“Vantage Capital Partners” – wow, sounds like that guy probably makes more than I do.

“Cherry Hills, NJ” – wow, I guess he’s got a nicer house, too.

Then you click on the photos, and start browsing through – is he/she married? If so, is his/spouse attractive? Are their kids attractive? Do they look happy together? What’s their relationship status?

And while I’m not actively or passively looking for anyone, as an experienced online dater, I can see how very easy it is to tell yourself stories – pure fictional stories – based on what you can infer from a limited portrait of someone else’s life.

If you’re dissatisfied and lonely in your relationship, the pull of your high school crush – who appears to be newly divorced on Facebook – may be the very impetus you need to test the waters of infidelity.

You remember the connection you had, you write a few ambiguous, then flirtatious emails, then, the next thing you know, you’re embroiled in an emotional email affair based on projection, need and fantasy. Cue Mark Sanford’s music.

The problem, as I see it, is twofold.

First, there’s the immediate accessibility to everyone you’ve ever met. In the past, you had a thing for someone, they disappeared from your life forever. You might have a “what if” lingering in your mind, but it was impractical to act on it. These days, every “what if” can be answered with a “let’s see”. If I want to find my sixth grade girlfriend in Florida, I can do just that – and know a lot more about her than I know about some stranger on JDate.

The second problem is the falseness of the medium. We make two faulty assumptions on Facebook: that other people are happier than we are, and that if we only connected with those idealized people, we would be happy, too. Of course, reality tells us a different tale, but to someone who is dissatisfied in life and love, it seems like a dreamy goal.

We make two faulty assumptions on Facebook: that other people are happier than we are, and that if we only connected with those idealized people, we would be happy, too.

Finally, the acceptability of the medium makes it ubiquitous, and, therefore, dangerous. It’s not chat rooms, it’s not Ashley Madison, it’s not singles bars – it’s connecting with old friends! You can see what an alibi – and slippery slope – that can become.

I’m as addicted to Facebook as anyone, but I’ve gotta tell you, in five years, I think it’ll be the biggest source of infidelity that man has ever known.

Discuss.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    K Jason Krafsky

    You make a great point on people making assumptions based off short, edited pieces of information and photos. I co-wrote two articles with my wife related to Facebook being a threat to marriages and what couples can do to improve their marriage with FB . Thanks for your contribution to the discussion on FB and relationships.

  2. 3
    starthrower68

    I took my relationship status off my profile, as I’m not on FB to find a date or hook-up or any such thing. I’m on there plugging my radio show, though I do keep in touch with old classmates and friends. It may be cynicism – healthy or no – but I have serious doubts I’m going to run across Mr. Right on Facebook. I made the mistake of thinking I had on MySpace and I’m now cured of that notion. It’s amazing, on MySpace, I still get propositioned and I have nothing on my profile there that says I’m there for dating, etc. Of course its mostly the oversees internet scammers but evidently, the wrong things are being inferred from my MySpace profile.

    1. 3.1
      Steve

      Its not about Mr. Right, but about Mr. Toxic but Tempting Diversion

  3. 4
    Eathan

    I think social media of various forms create a certain comfort and builds relationships that can become unhealthy for your relationship. I’ll admit that I’ve surfed FB for some of the same reasons you mentioned Evan… but I’m sure others do it and take it further than just being curious. I think FB is the latest craze the internet has created. It used to AOL chat rooms in the 90’s.. Myspace a few years ago. Cheating hearts will find a way.
    .-= Eathan´s last blog ..When Swirl Goes Bad =-.

    1. 4.1
      Steve

      You aren’t that surgeon dude who can fight like a martial artist are you?

      Sorry, too much Lost 🙂

  4. 5
    Ava

    Evan brings up some interesting points on the nature of our online addiction. It’s not just FB, it’s online dating, too. Even when you’re dating someone from an internet dating site, it’s become common for people to keep their profiles open, and to continue to browse. It’s the continual access to other people, to someone different, new, or even something or someone lingering from our past, but whatever it is, maybe, just maybe, it’s BETTER than what we’ve already got. Makes me think of another post of Evan’s about keeping doors/options open, and how seductive that has become.

  5. 6
    Steve

    Evan, Cherry Hill New Jersey? That is where I grew up. I feel sorry for your FB friend for living there. It is a Kafkaesque suburban hell.

    1. 6.1
      Curly Girl

      I made a similar observation and then didn’t post it. Just goes to show you how powerful illusion is, if the fantasy of Cherry Hill is inciting envy.

  6. 7
    Steve

    All;

    In the experience of my life some of the most dysfunctional families took the best photographs. Don’t take FB pages as an accurate portrayal of anyone’s life.

  7. 8
    Katherine

    Hey Ev – this is a great article! The thing that I want to point out – is that Facebook is not the source or infidelity. I made the same statement a few years back at the dawn of Online Dating. I said = I think that Online Dating will create as many divorces, as it does connections. It is just the nature of the extent of exposure and tracking that technology offers. In reality, it isn’t Match.com, or Facebook. People just have more opportunity to act on temptation more quickly. Indeed a paradigm shift for our generation, but when you watch how the 18-24 crowd are interacting nowadays, online and off, it really isn’t so strange for them. They are inherently less monogamous, open to more people and relationships, and as a mom, it does concern me. It seems a trend that relationships as we know are becoming transient and disposable. Its the long-tail effect, but instead of marketing, its being applied to relationships. Interesting and frightening at the same time.

    1. 8.1
      Jonsi

      One reason we are less monogamous and open to more people and relationships is because we’ve seen our parents divorce so greatly (compared to their parents), so why rush to find something permanent? Two educated, career oriented people are unlikely to stay in the same geographic location in their 20’s to early 30’s, let alone stay there together. I don’t think our relationships are less meaningful or valuable; they are only disposable in the sense they are not congruent with other goals. I don’t find compelling arguments for relationships to be anything but transient at that age, and I think it is healthy.

  8. 9
    Steve

    Somebody spending a lot of time on the phone “just catching up” with an ex-husband is highly visible and suspicious. The phone numbers and length of calls also show up on the phone bill.

    URLs to facebook pages also show up in a browser history on your computer and the pages will be in the browser cache. However, most people don’t know to look at these things and it isn’t obvious like a strange number on a phone bill.

  9. 10
    Peter

    Many of my FB friends also talk about the bad stuff going on in their life.

    I don’t know, I guess if you want to stray, FB and the internet may make it easier. But people have been cheating for generations, so I wouldn’t put too much blame on the internet.

  10. 11
    Andy

    Wow, this blog could not have been more dead balls on!!! I was just thinking about this subject the other day and it does worry me because i have found myself sabatoging relationships due to the “what if” factor.

    Recently i was dating this woman that i first met in person…i know, a switch from what has become the status quo…online dating. The thing is, in person she was really funny, good to hang around and we got along really well but i wasn’t really attracted to her and was not thinking about dating her…until!!! Then she made me a friend on facebook. Well she does have a really nice smile and she is exceptionally adept at posting pics that make her look very attractive. So based on that, i did ask her out and started to date her. Well needless to say it didn’t last long especially when we arrived at the sex stage. I just was not sexually attracted to her and that ruined the relationship. yeah i know…this leads to another blog but we’ll save that for later. To me there does have to be a certain amount of attraction or else it just will not work. So for me, the “facebook effect” worked in reverse. Now i can see how it would influence people who otherwise would not be looking. As a member on FB it is my responsibility to present myself in the best possible fashion. I want everyone to know how happy and successful i am even though i might not be. Kind of makes you think how insecure we all really are!!!

    1. 11.1
      Curly Girl

      Dead balls on? Hmm. Not sure about this as an expression….

      1. 11.1.1
        Jennifer

        LOL…that struck me too

      2. 11.1.2
        Kristyn - with a Y

        Its an industry expression

  11. 12
    Steve

    Evan, I couldn’t agree more. Facebook and the online dating sites IMO will cause more marriage and relationship breakups than in the past. This is caused by what I call “The Kid in The Candy Store” syndrome . . . those that are never satisfied with their choice. They fear that they will miss someone better if they stop searching to concentrate on getting to know just one person. So they start seeing someone, even commit to dating exclusively but continue to look on-line just in case.
    It reminds me of that joke where the women are in the Man Store. First floor, guys that are nice, but the salesman tells them that the men get better and better as you go upstairs. The only rule is that you can’t go back to a floor once you leave it. These guys are nice, but why wouldn’t you want even better? So they hop into the elevator. Second floor, the guys are nice and gorgeous. But it could be even better, so they tell the salesman they want to go up to the next floor. Third floor, they are nice, gorgeous and can cook. But how great would they be on the next floor? Fourth floor, they are nice, gorgeous, can cook and are good with kids. The women decide to go up to even better men. Fifth floor, they are nice, gorgeous, can cook, are good with kids and make truckloads of money. How great can the sixth floor be! The elevator doors open onto the empty roof. The salesman cries out “See! You women are never satisfied!” **

    **CAVEAT: This applies to men just as much as to women.

  12. 13
    Steve1

    Evan…I couldn’t agree with you more. Facebook and the daying sites will IMO bring more divorces and relationship breakups than ever before. It’s what I call “The Kid in The Candy Store” syndrome . . . those that are never satisfied with their choice. They fear that they will miss someone better if they stop searching to concentrate on getting to know just one person. So they start seeing someone, even commit to dating exclusively but continue to look on-line just in case.
    It reminds me of that joke where the women are in the Man Store. First floor, guys that are nice, but the salesman tells them that the men get better and better as you go upstairs. The only rule is that you can’t go back to a floor once you leave it. These guys are nice, but why wouldn’t you want even better? So they hop into the elevator. Second floor, the guys are nice and gorgeous. But it could be even better, so they tell the salesman they want to go up to the next floor. Third floor, they are nice, gorgeous and can cook. But how great would they be on the next floor? Fourth floor, they are nice, gorgeous, can cook and are good with kids. The women decide to go up to even better men. Fifth floor, they are nice, gorgeous, can cook, are good with kids and make truckloads of money. How great can the sixth floor be! The elevator doors open onto the empty roof. The salesman cries out “See! You women are never satisfied!”**

    **CAVEAT: It also applies to men as well as to women.

  13. 14
    Steve1

    FYI….the Steve with ” The Kid in The Candy Store post is a different Steve than the post before this one.

  14. 15
    Mia

    I predict that 5 years from now, facebook will be nothing but a memory because people will be using whatever hot social media outlet is around then.

    It’s just one more excuse in a long line of excuses (and makes me think of “Escape: The Pina Colada Song”). People who are unhappy in their relationship with find an outlet. People who want to cheat will do so, whether they use facebook, myspace, email, work environments, local groups, etc. The problem is not facebook, it’s the person.

    1. 15.1
      Mikko Kemppe

      I agree with Mia. I think when people are unhappy in their relationships or within themselves, people find outlets to cheat or waste their energy elsewhere whether that is facebook or a club downtown.
      .-= Mikko Kemppe´s last blog ..Are Women Attracted To Muscular Men? The Answer May Surprise You =-.

  15. 16
    Michael

    You know what? A weak man will always be a weak man.

    The medium changes, but people stay the same. Facebook is easy to blame, but Match.com was just as easy, and dance clubs and business conventions and high school reunions and Vegas trips with the guys before that.

    Basically it comes down to the bone in guys’ heads that makes them think they can just mess around with someone while keeping their relationship – or worse, that they’re somehow entitled to stray for reasons real or imagined. Some of us guys have that bone, others don’t.

    We can’t treat obesity by outlawing donuts.
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..How to Perform 14 Basic Skills, Part 1 =-.

  16. 17
    casualencounters.com/blog

    This reminded me that I recently found out through facebook that an ex-girlfriend (one who dumped ME–can you imagine!) is now some hotshot corporate lawyer, busy trotting the globe and pulling in the megabucks. As much as I want to believe that she’s quietly dying on the inside and living a lonely, isolated life of handwringing despair, I suspect that she isn’t.

    It is my intention to sue facebook for inflicting this emotional distress. Get in on the action, kids. Let’s make it a class action. AND HIRE MY BITCH EX-GIRLFRIEND TO REPRESENT US. O TEH_IRONY.
    .-= casualencounters.com/blog´s last blog ..Weekly Roundup Top 10 Casual Sex Links from Around the Web =-.

    1. 17.1
      Curly Girl

      CasualEncounters, she probably lives in Cherry Hill, NJ. There are corporate lawyers there.

      Globetrotting is rather fun, but not as much fun as you would think if you are working while globetrotting. It does play well on FB, though. Which is the most important thing, as we know.

      One of my exes is a class action suit lawyer on FB. He wrote a play recently and wanted my opinion. It was not a great play and he thought there was a chance it would make over a million dollars (???!!!!).

      Point: Delusion also goes the other way. People with money dream about making art; people who make art dream about making money.

      1. 17.1.1
        Steve

        There are people who have far more than we got. Not just material things, but experiences and better relationships. What they got doesn’t matter to our happiness. It is we got that does.

        I see articles from happiness researchers every few years. The happiest people in the world live in impoverished 3rd world hells. They don’t travel, they don’t have the educations of corporate lawyers, they don’t have houses in Cherry Hill, they don’t have fashionable clothing and sometimes they don’t even have enough to eat.

        If my memory serves me correctly what they have that make them happy is adequate resources for subsistence, a strong belief system, a sense of purpose, community, caring people in their lives and health.

        1. Jennifer

          I’ve seen the same articles, Steve. Great point.

  17. 18
    Lance

    I know some guys who are very successful meeting and dating women off of social media, particularly myspace and facebook, but I think it’s only a threat in the sense that social media IN GENERAL is giving us why too many choices, too much fragmentation, and too much voyeurism. I wouldn’t lay all the blame at FB, and I don’t know about the #1 threat to fidelity, that’s a bit hyperbolic.

    On the flipside, FB is a fantastic tool for prescreening someone. Yes, it’s a little stalkery, but flipping through someone’s candid pics gives you more than enough information to determine if they’re date-worthy. If you can friend your target, it’s far more useful than the profiles and pics on dating sites.

    As always, the technology is a double edged sword.
    .-= Lance´s last blog ..Obama and Sarkozy Staring At Hot Chick’s Ass =-.

  18. 19
    searchingwithin

    I’m one of those that doesn’t use the site for dating, or getting in touch with past encounters, just a few family, and people who’s blogs I read regularly. Although I put the state I live in, there is no city, and there is no relationship status, or other personal information.

    The sad thing is, not only is it making it easier to find love on the side, but for people to find it not only in full view of the rest of the world, but also their current partner.
    .-= searchingwithin´s last blog ..Balance of Power Among Equals =-.

  19. 20
    DateandLunch

    I absolutely agree with you

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