Facebook – The Source of All Future Infidelity?

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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. 21
    Kristyn

    I read an article just the other day that theorized the reason why so many marriages fail is because in our society we place high value on 2 conflicting things: marriage/finding a long term relationnship and the importance of pleasing ourselves (self gratification).

  2. 22
    vino

    I know Facebook & Myspace are oh so cool, but…

    If you feel the need to have such an account, I’m afraid I am not the one for you.

    Friends & family know how to get hold of me – they call or text me.

    Letting the world know you are painting your nails or fence this afternoon – vain & attention whorish (both men & women).

    It all just seems one open window to see if the grass is always greener or to indulge the fantasy of ‘the one that got away.’

    Geeze, get some therapy & go do something productive.

    1. 22.1
      starthrower68

      Vino, throttle back just a little there, fella….

      I do a smooth jazz radio show; I’ve got several of the artists who’s music I play on the show on my “friends” list, plus other jocks and stations, particularly that format. It can be a useful networking tool. I agree with you; we don’t need to know everytime somebody opens up a pack of chewing gum. But I do like the networking aspect of it.

      1. 22.1.1
        vino

        I don’t view FB as a networking tool professionally. For me, things like LinkedIn are where that is done. So I see your point for that, but I look at the FB personal side, which is the bulk of it’s usage, I bet.

  3. 23
    Kelly

    I like the point that Evan made about assuming someone else’s life is better. It’s not wise or realistic to base our decision soley on the information we get from Facebook. I certainly think there are people on Facebook who appear that way through their profile, simply because they are one of the many that compare other’s profiles to their own. They’re always striving to “one up” other people on Facebook, and it eventually becomes a competition among Facebook users.

  4. 24
    Honey

    Well, facebook use is already down something like over 20% in users younger than 30…everyone’s creeped out that their mom is on there and they’re bailing. Perhaps what you say is true, EMK, with users age 30 and up, though I hardly think FB is *causing* the infidelity.

    I met the BF on myspace, he was never that into it….now I have his password because he put me in charge of updating his profile and responding to the (increasingly rare as everyone has migrated to FB) e-mails on there. He said that if I wanted to make a FB account for him and do all the logging in/activity that I was welcome to (he has no particular draw to do so). While this would be AWESOME for spying on his exes, I think I have better things to do…
    .-= Honey´s last blog ..Obama and Sarkozy Staring At Hot Chick’s Ass =-.

  5. 25
    Selena

    FB causing infidelity 5 years from now? Nah. We’re already there and a certain percentage of the population has been there for awhile now.

    7 yrs. ago my then partner joined Classmates.com. He was very excited to re-connect with old army buddies and classmates from decades before. What he failed to share with me was that through one of those classmates he reconnected with an old girlfriend he was once engaged to as a young man. And started an affair with her that lasted 6 mos. before I caught on.

    I don’t blame CM.com. I blame HIS lack of character. In hindsight I believe he was looking for something “new” while wanting to hang on to our relationship (sex life?). He might have cheated with anyone, and perhaps did before, for all I know. But yeah, these social network sites do make it easier to indulge in “what if…” thinking and go for it. And even easier to lie about what you’re doing.

    1. 25.1
      Athena

      I agree completely.   It makes it easier yes but is not causation.   I have also checked out potential boyfriends on FB and have been quite turned off.   Anybody who posts constantly or posts garbage is a turnoff  

  6. 26
    Michael

    Being on Facebook, almost all profiles are not readable.

    Furthermore, the vast majority of users hide their relationship status, like I do. (I am single.)

    1. 26.1
      Josie

      well, I went on a date with a man from Match, and checked his FB after the date.   It said he was in an open relationship.   WTF !

  7. 27
    Hannah

    Wow Evan,
    Is that an accurate picture of YOU?
    Nice.
    I was looking for a different Evan Katz but got sidetracked.
    Just for the record, I’ve seen 2 marriages break up so far over facebook love, and I have seen an apparant real love occur between two friends who didn’t previously know one another.
    Good luck everybody.

  8. 28
    sayanta

    EMK-

    You had a girlfriend in sixth grade? Man, you started early. I was still playing with Barbie dolls then.

  9. 29
    Fiona

    Personally, i thought the best thing about FB is that everyone is not as hot as you remembered. Nope, they’re all fat, balding, and strangely enough, fans of Fox News. That’s farmers for ya, I guess. And it’s not even the 10th reunion yet! If everyone is fat and balding now, what happens at the 20th reunion?!?! No way I’d sleep with my 6th grade crush, he’s in prison for armed robbery…but he still has a FB page!

  10. 30
    Darren

    Yes you are quite right.

    I am a victim of facebook infedelity, my wife not three months ago was caught cheating with a marred man from her school days who was having issues with his wife that was visible from the wall posts.

    My relationship WAS solid and HAPPY, then she got her iphone, put facebook on it and within weeks I lost her socially in the evenings. With in a month the she had started inappropriate conversations, via text and chat  with two of her male friends from the past  and within four months she is planning on wrecking a ten year relationship with four children, for an old flame she would never had ever come into contact if it wasn’t for facebook. Having all those “What ifs” displayed in front of you takes a strong relationship in deed to stop the beginnings of a flirt and flutter. A single crack in your own relationship and you are up against a fantasy, a person who hasn’t whined, or nagged, or complained. But someone  either attracted too or was once attracted to your partner and with a free private communication platform.  

    I am still picking up the pieces still today. My warning is to all spouses, that its not just facebook, its all non-logged private internet chatter where efidelty occurs, but I would blame very much the likes of facebook for dangling temptation in the first place.

  11. 31
    Piper

    First gf dumps my guy (pre me)for her drummer – he is devastated.
    He dates a few girls we meet get married
    5 or so yrs later pre-facebook She tries to hook up with him because drummer is alcoholic
    He says no I am married
    10 years pass — we divorce
    We re-hook up like 2 years later, semi dating again
    – FB appears — or we discover it (I liked mySpace)
    She contacts him again, they secretly hook up behind my back
    Now they are Married.
    Then my sister. She is getting divorced for her reconnect
    Sorry Nobody is safe… Or I and my bro-in-law   just suck
      

  12. 32
    fb hater

    I am with vino, darren, and piper. FB is an evil platform for fantasy and escape and LIES! I have been off it (yes its an addiction) for over a year and I don’t miss it.  

  13. 33
    JoJOe

    When the cats away the MOUSE will play.

    Temptation is as temptation does. The internet is like choosing shampoo these days. Mix a large amount of over choice with an instant medium and a few billion lizard brains and you get a recipe for illusion.
    It is interesting to know that while we’re all objectifying our lives to the world, while we’re all seeking out a self worth we’re oblivious to the wall just past the monitor.
    Seems the MOUSE is more curious than the cat. Has the internet become our alter ego? Have we stopped taking care of our realities to dwell in a quasi world of “he has, she has” “I have, you don’t” “I need, I want”
    Maybe we should sit for a while and spin our chairs around and look at what we have or need or didn’t get done.
    Are many of us walking where angles fear to tread?
    I love the internet, connection, education, travel, science, blogging.
    But for many (understatement) it’s envy, greed and sex.

    Some of us prefer the matrix some of us prefer reality. I guess we’ll have a future of dreamers and realitors.
    I’ve dated mostly dreamers and yes I found them online. No good.
    There is a limit to fantasy and that fantasy usually is the ruin of what could be a perfectly capable human being.
    If you’re not focused on becoming “someone” you’ll be looking for “someone”
    We’re all capable of debauchery, it’s a choice, like chocolates. Some hang tough by personal virtue. Some develop addictions to disaster.
    I had a boyfriend who’s preference was my photo’s rather than my face. Go figure is was a mystery. But I guess he was a dreamer and I was not interested in sleeping all day or for the rest of my physical life for that matter.
    I will say imagination is a wonderful thing but use it wisely.
    Lets all imagine we have “real” lives say. And make magic there.
    How many of us are ready to be told “YOU ARE THE ONE”

  14. 34
    laura

    Perhaps Facebook and other social media contribute to infidelity. But above all, infidelity is a choice. A choice made by someone to escape, or avoid, a larger emotional issue, or financial issue, or midlife issue, or self-esteem issue, etc. The research is pretty clear that affairs happen even in good marriages, so clearly the marriage is not at fault. And realizing that it’s not your fault, that it was someone’s choice, is one of the first steps toward personal recovery and healing…whether the marriage ends or mends.

      

  15. 35
    Kathy

    Agree! I think it already is this! I    personally know 4 people who have had affairs through Fb connections!  

  16. 36
    Ursula

    I am sick and at home a lit but in a 30 yr relationship. I trusted my partner to make friends online, and even socialise with them. I made nothing of the fact his relationship status was blank, has friends hidden from my view and little connection online I have 11 friends, mostly relatives and Facebook is banal we used to chuckle. However, I found he had been socialising and some of close friends he went on dates with, he had not even told he had a long term partner at home. These friends knew of the existence of each of our 4 dogs over the years, but he says my existence never came up in conversation in real life. My trust and allowing him to socialise on dates out was totally based on me thinking he had a companion who didn’t view him as single. Recently, he started to lie about where he had been, said he had been for “drinks” with friends, when it had been a female friend who assumed he was available. I caught him out, before it progressed, but he insists it would never have got that far. What is difficult to describe is the betrayal I feel at the emotional connection they had. My partner hardly has time to talk, isn’t listening, on phone/iPad every spare minute or asleep because his nights out were draining him. I was spending weekends in alone whilst he came back from clubbing gigging so to find he had so little time for me, but was dressing up, had taken a lady out on romantic type dates, was talking in a pub for hours, and coming home very late was a betrayal despite him saying nothing had happened. Makes me feel like a paranoid jealous wide. I asked him to change his relationship status, he was irritated commenting all his female friends will definitely stop talking now, but failed to see that making himself look available was dishonest. He put me as a partner, but still I was blocked from seeing friends he had on there (1000 apparently to my 11, only 4 were mutual and known by both of us). Then, 24 hrs later, he told me he’d deleted his Facebook page…. but 24 hrs after that it was reactivated by Messenger. We’re trying to repair the damage, trying to see how a simple thing like hiding your home life can lead to a mess that nearly split us forever.   He has yet to delete his lady friends from his contacts, and he has deleted all their texts as part of housekeeping despite the fact he’s kept all mine. Makes me still suspicious. Seems like 20 yrs ago, what was acceptable as a mild transitory flirt could very laughed at by a couple but now with the potential to hook up with anybody whoever gave you the eye more and more of our muddle aged friends are advancing to online affairs with some friends having left their wives and married their online flirty friends. My position is difficult because society has yet to universally Damn a person or define what my partner did as cheating. Turned out that my partner didn’t get far down the line of having a full blown affair but it could so easily happen. And me going sick, I can’t go out to all his social events and keep him busy sexuality so he is always going to wonder about supplementing it clandestinely and I’ll be powerless to stop it.

      1. 36.1.1
        Ursula

        No, I wouldn’t leave. I totally understand why it happened, how frustrating it is to have a longterm sick partner and how he craved sexual attention and flirtation in the absence of our physical closeness during times I was incapacitated. I do believe nothing happened, but am trying to explain how a harmless flirtation is hurtful to someone as we should be emotionally connected and feel close, even during times sex is not possible due to my medical symptoms. But it’s exactly relevant to your article, one half of a partnership is thinking “But I didn’t do anything wrong, it was nothing” while the other half is thinking “Why can’t he talk to me, spend 4 or 5 hours a few times a week sitting having a drink with me” and it’s the resentment of time made and effort of attention given. Going out a was making him fall asleep in front of telly on nights in. Years ago, he might have said something about a mild flirtation at work, going for a drink, and it wouldn’t have bothered me but once it’s online it comes into the home and robs your connection and time there too and is available 24 hrs per day. The alternative is for him to say he’s not getting enough sex to satisfy his need to feel attractive, and despite that being only a small percentage of the relationship, he could throw everything away to chase that part elsewhere. But it’s him hiding it, and the time spent messaging, texting, talking connecting not the act of flirtation that is upsetting and the omission of mentioning I exist because that would have stopped any reciprocal attention he was getting. He has deleted his FB account now, but I’ll always be wary.

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