The Internet was supposed to make cheating easier.In the early 2000s, anonymous chat rooms, the birth of adultery website Ashley Madison, and social networks like MySpace seemed to promise the dawn of a new era of affairs.
“Maintaining a loving committed relationship is harder than before as alternative romantic options are easier to explore and to realise,” Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, Professor at the University of Haifa and author of the 2004 book Love Online told us. “This increases the feasibility of cheating, as well as the temptation to cheat.”
But at the same time internet culture has made the ability to cheat easier, it’s also made it easier to get caught.
Fast forward to 2013 where philandering athletes, politicians, and celebrities have been exposed through social media. With the wrong press of a button or hacking of a smartphone, details of infidelities and inappropriate conversations are suddenly broadcast for all the world to see.
But you don’t have to be a celebrity to get caught: In 2012, a UK study found that more than a third of divorce petitions cited Facebook as a reason. In America, 81 per cent of divorce lawyers have seen an increase in the number of social networking cases in the past five years, and 66 per cent have even used Facebook as evidence in court.
Here’s why it’s so hard to get away with cheating online.
The internet has connected us all
It’s become next to impossible to have a one night stand without him or her being able to find you on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Anonymous sex is suddenly not-so-anonymous when the girl from the bar “pokes” you the next day.
And harmless flirting at work or the gym is no longer so harmless. These romances can take months or years to develop in the real world, but has K. Jason Krafsky, co-author of Facebook and Your Marriage, told the Wall Street Journal: “On Facebook they happen in just a few clicks.”
If the flirtation was illicit, those few clicks are the virtual breadcrumbs that can get you caught. A new friend request, a post on your wall, or a suspicious tweet can ruin trust and wreck a relationship.
Incriminating photographs also have a way of making their way online. In fact, it has become common for attorneys to scour Facebook profiles and pictures when they’re looking for evidence in divorce cases.
Short of lying about your real name constantly, your past is bound to catch up with you online.
Sharing is the new normal
Sharing social media and phone passwords has become a sign of love and trust. It tells your partner that there are no secrets in the relationship — be they text messages, calls, or recently added “friends.”
Craig Gross, the founder of FacebookCheating.com, which details stories of Facebook affairs told us in an email that passwords are meant to be shared with the people you love. “If you are married or have kids and they are on Facebook, everyone’s account in your family should be open to everyone,” he wrote. “No secrets. Secrets will catch up with you.”
If you’re in a relationship or married and don’t post your status on Facebook, it can cause huge trust issues.
Sharing passwords and making a relationship status public are both major barriers to cheating. And if you think you’re careful about hiding your online behaviour, think again — even “Facebook stalking” can be discovered by a significant other.
Technology has made it easier than ever to catch cheaters
Computer monitoring software has always existed, but it’s arguably better than ever.
Programs like Timesnapper take automatic screen shots every few minutes, allowing you to play back computer activity.
There are even smartphone apps designed to track someone’s phone without them knowing. Downloading a tracking app (and then hiding it with another app such as Poof) will allow someone to spy on your location without your knowledge.
Voluntary GPS apps like Find My Friends and Glympse, which let people see where you really are, have also become popular. If you’re “working late,” you better really be at the office — or have an air-tight explanation for why you turned off your GPS tracker.
The threat of turning up on Google search
Let’s say you cheat and get caught — you no longer have to worry only about your car getting keyed, your clothes being burned, or getting thrown out of your home. Shaming websites such as CheaterVille, Shame and Name, and countless personal blogs have been set up to expose cheaters.
It doesn’t sound too sinister, but the implications are serious: Any future boss or potential lover will be able to run a simple Google search of your name and find the website with your sordid history. You (and if you’re really unlucky, your picture) will be forever connected with the alleged affair.
In short, the cost of cheating has never been higher.
Yes, you can still cheat
The internet may have made cheating an obstacle, but people are great at evolving to get what they want.
We’ve learned to permanently delete our browser history, and use unconventional forums like Skype, webcams, and gaming devices to communicate, where evidence of an affair is easier to hide.
New apps and programs pop up daily that are abused by sexting or sending inappropriate messages: Take for instance the immensely popular Vine and Snapchat. And there are apps specifically dedicated to hiding messages and phones calls that you don’t want your significant other to see, such as Cate (“Call and Text Eraser”).
But the online world is no longer the same Wild West of the early 2000s, and technology and social norms are finally catching up with us. Not to mention our own human nature — because no matter how careful we try to be, reason dictates that we will all eventually slip up.
“People shock me,” Gross told us. “They’re contacting people on their Facebook when their spouses or family members have access to it or leave it signed in. You get so caught up in the new hot relationship or crush that you make mistakes, and that’s when you get caught.”
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