Adultery, infidelity on Facebook and Mxit
Social networks have made it easier for the infidelity that has grown exponentially with the advent of the internet, and whilst many would argue that virtual adultery can never be as bad as the real thing, even an online affair can be of great distress to the “victim.” The recent popularity of social networking websites like Facebook and Mxit have brought with them the possibility to make complete new friends with common interests, as well as to reconnect with those lost friends from school or your more recent past. Matrimonial investigations where once confined to the real world and the surveillance of partners were often a case of physical tracking of vehicles etc. However, with the advent of modern technology an effective matrimonial investigation needs to be able to work on a virtual as well as a physical level.
More and more frequently, otherwise sound marriages, are suffering from the use of online social networking sites like Facebook and Mxit. There are no figures or percentages yet to suggest that the rate of infidelity has risen with the growth of social networking sites.
But do social networking sites encourage flirtatious behaviour, and are they really to blame for a rise in adultery?
As anyone who has joined Facebook, will know that the first couple of weeks is often a race to add as many ‘friends’ as possible. It is also all too easy, and often irresistibly tempting, to look up old boyfriends or girlfriends or maybe just that guy from university or college you had that crush on, but never did anything about at the time, almost reliving that lost moment in time. Of course, it is only human to wonder what happened to people you were close to in the past.
The danger starts when that late night uninhibited surfing session, fuelled by that second glass of sauvignon blanc or cabernet, begets a ‘poke’ or a flirtatious message sent to an ex-lover or missed opportunity. One thing leads to another and you are soon exchanging emails reminiscing about the past; and the next thing you know you’re arranging to meet to catch up on old times and that is when the trouble starts.
It really doesn’t only apply to people known to you. The remote nature of the internet provides some people with a veil of anonymity which can lead them to act in a complete different way that they wouldn’t in a real life situation. People who are generally shy can often act much more confidently in a virtual situation, leading them to be much more flirtatious and socially assertive than they otherwise would. Asking someone out over the internet feels less risky than it does face to face, as it is only your avatar that is facing possible rejection.
Of course, social networking sites don’t make anyone cheat on their partner. They do make it easy to get in contact with people, and therefore provide the opportunity to cheat to someone who is that way inclined. They also provide a much greater chance of getting caught, as they provide an electronic trail of evidence to a suspicious partner who knows where to look. So, the problem is not so much the social networks, but human nature.
As a divorce attorney I have seen a huge increase in the recent years in people producing print outs of emails, instant messages, Facebook wall screenshots and sms messages to back up claims of their partner’s infidelity.
So how many exes does your current partner have on their list of Facebook friends? And for that matter how many do you have on yours? It is worth bearing in mind next time you receive a friend request and the option to ‘Confirm or Ignore?’ Is it someone you would be happy for your partner to know about? That is the question.
Finally, spare a thought for famous Emma Brady, reportedly the world’s first Facebook divorcee. She only found out that her husband wanted a divorce when friends started phoning her to console her on being dumped.
Some interesting facts appeared on the internet, altough the veracity thereof is unknown the stats are worth mentioning:
- Only 46% of men believe that online affairs are adultery. (DivorceMag)
- Up to 37% of men and 22% of women admit to having affairs. Researchers think the vast majority of the millions of people who visit chat rooms, have multiple “special friends”. (Dr. Bob Lanier, askbob.com)
- One-third of divorce litigation is caused by online affairs. (The Fortino Group)
- Approximately 70% of time on-line is spent in chartrooms or sending e-mail; of these interactions, the vast majority are romantic in nature. (Dr. Michael Adamse, PhD., co-author of “Affairs of the Net: The Cybershrinks’ Guide to Online Relationships”)
Written by: Bertus Preller
Family Law and Divorce Law Attorney
Abrahams and Gross Inc. Cape Town