With the world at our fingertips, the internet has made it easier than ever to connect with people. As we move further into the cyber age, chat room conversations and the growing popularity of cybersex begs a rethinking of how we define infidelity. With the internet as a tool, cheating no longer has to be exclusively defined by physical contact or actual sex, but can include any action that is a breach of trust in a relationship. This can include secretly sending salacious emails, engaging in steamy conversations on message boards, or exchanging lascivious photos.
Because internet affairs are often steeped in secrecy, it is difficult to pin down any reliable statistics. However, a study conducted in 2005 among web users in Sweden reveals that nearly one-third of participants admitted to engaging in cybersex, and those in committed relationships were reportedly just as likely to engage in cybersex as single people. Additionally, the study found that women were slightly more likely to engage in internet affairs than men. Although men have traditionally been seen as the sex most likely to cheat, it seems the tech age may be changing that.
According to Kimberly Young, PhD, Director for the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in Bradford, PA, “the internet is opening up these new ways of exploring your sexuality and that includes infidelity.”
Part of the appeal of internet affairs is explained by their accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. With the internet at the ready wherever we are, whether it is on a computer, mobile phone, or other device, connection is accessible anywhere and at a moment’s notice. Decreases in internet costs also make internet affairs affordable, especially since they do not come with hotel or dinner bills. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, internet affairs can be anonymous. Not only can people craft their identities and fantasies behind the safety of a computer screen, but they can also hide their unfaithfulness by deleting emails, their browsing history, or any other pieces of incriminating evidence.
Controversial Canada-based online dating service Ashley Madison has over 124 million visits per month. With their slogan “Life is short, Have an affair”, the site is marketed to people who are married or in a committed relationship as a way to meet people with the express purpose of cheating. The company even offers a “premium adultery guarantee” that if their members do not find what they are looking for, they can get their money back.
Unlike affairs that are solely internet-based, Ashley Madison encourages in-person infidelity. While it may seem outrageous that a site like this can exist, it is a reflection of a changing culture that allows cheap and easy access to instant gratification, and which has in recent years stretched the boundaries of romantic relationships.
The internet has made affairs easier and more accessible, and has allowed secrecy, cheating, and adultery into the comfort of one’s home. Communicating with someone online might be harmless enough, but it can become a problem if it becomes emotional or sexual in nature. Although there may not be any physical contact, internet affairs can be just as damaging to relationships as in-person affairs.
Has your marriage been compromised by an extramarital affair? The Buxner Law Firm has over 20 years of experience serving the St. Louis area. For assistance with your divorce and family law needs, please contact us for a free in-office consultation at (314) 863-6000.