We have to take the good and the bad with technology. The good: It can make our lives easier with the simple press of the button. The bad news (at least for those trying to be in committed relationships): Romantic partners can have constant access to old boos with just the touch of a button. It’s called “digital infidelity” and unsurprisingly it’s pretty common.
A new study by researchers at the University of Indiana found that Facebook users in relationships frequently use the site to keep in touch with “back-burners” — exes or platonic friends they know they could connect with romantically, should their current relationships go south. Men have back-burners at roughly twice the rate of women, the study found. But among both genders, the practice is widespread: On average, respondents in relationships said they had romantic or sexual conversations with two people (!) besides their current partner.
That comes on top of a recent release by the research agency OnePoll, which suggested as many as half of all women keep in touch with a “back-up husband” they could contact if their current husband doesn’t work out. (“With sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with an old flame,” a OnePoll rep told the Daily Mail.)
Meanwhile, sex researchers have recently begun to treat “remote infidelity” — emotional cheating, via social media or smartphone — as a valid topic of research. And it’s on the rise, the noted relationship scholar and anthropology professor Helen Fisher told Salon.
“If you’re rushing away from the dinner table with your family to check your e-mail,” Fisher said, “it’s affecting your relationship.”
Of course as the researchers point out, emotional infidelity is nothing new. People have been having work husbands and wives for decades, but technology changes the game. Text or direct messaging is so easy, can be done covertly, and can create a sense of intimacy between the two people. I recently joked on my Facebook page that at least back in the day if you wanted to have an affair, you had to pick up the phone and call someone and it probably took a little bit of work. Now, just tap tap tap a message on your phone and an illicit affair can begin and remain totally hidden from your partner.
For those who can’t deal with this kind of uncertainty in their relationships, of course there’s an app for that. It’s called mCouple and allows you to view every text, call and Facebook messages sent from your partner’s phone. mCouple claims to be a “mobile tracker that can help you stay in touch 24/7!”
Alright that app seems a little cray cray. There’s no way you can try to track your partner’s every move without looking insecure and nuts. Doug Christie’s wife, anyone? Trust and communication with your partner are necessary, but is it enough in today’s reality? Sure everyone one has exes and former boos, but it seems like social media has upped the ante. We’re at a point where not only can people easily get in touch with a former lover, but they can clearly envision an alternative as their ex boo’s life (complete with pictures) appears on their timeline. That’s a lot of temptation and a lot of pressure to remain faithful and committed. If your partner continually has someone on the back burner, it makes you wonder if you’ll ever be put there someday.