“They’re having an affair.” As soon as someone says this, you’re assaulted with thoughts of dark rooms, quick and discreet kisses, fleeting glances, and a reason behind those late nights at work. But having an affair has become much more complicated with the evolution of technology and the introduction of social media.
Now, there are myriad ways for people to be messaging someone in private, arranging to meet up, or even sending saucy pictures to others. And according to various law firms in the UK, social media use is a rising cause for divorce.
“Some women complained about technology quite literally putting temptation at their partners’ fingertips, providing them with opportunities to establish and maintain extra-marital relationships via social media and dating websites even while they are in the same room,” Abigail Lowther, an associate solicitor at Hall Brown Family Law, says in a Sunday Telegraph article.
Not only are these affairs becoming more common, there also seems to be a rise in people having multiple affairs. Lowther also says that “some of her female clients discovered that their other halves had had more than five flings”.
While the use of Facebook for infidelity may not be all that surprising, the social platform LinkedIn, which is designed to connect users with business and employment opportunities, is also used quite often. However, just as social media can help adulterers, it can also be their downfall.
“Technology has also made it easier for illicit relationships to be uncovered,” Joanna Pratt, partner at Thomson Snell & Passmore, says in the article. “People forget to close or properly delete emails, text messages are sent or received but not deleted, and photographs can appear on Facebook which although they might appear on a totally unconnected person’s Facebook page, disclose to the whole world the nature of relationships.”
Not all affairs conducted on social media may lead to physical intimacy, but emotional affairs can be just as damaging to relationships. A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald told the story of Jacklyn Collier, an actor living in New York, who realised that she was discussing things with a friend on Facebook that she’d never discussed with her partner. More importantly, she knew she’d feel horrible if her partner saw the messages.
“When you’re reaching for another person for comfort, that’s what you’re supposed to do with your partner. That’s what bonds us,” Stacy Notaras Murphy, a psychotherapist in Washington, DC, says of emotional affairs.