Does Social Media Make Cheating Easier for People like Anthony Weiner?

So here we go again. Another public figure admitting to erroneous acts that skirt just outside the confines of his marriage. But is it infidelity? When Arnold Schwarzenegger came clean about fathering a child out of wedlock, at least there was concrete evidence that people could look at and say, “Ah, hah! He definitely cheated!” But with virtual flirtation, recognizing when someone has crossed that line becomes a little more difficult. When does social media contact become infidelity? If my husband instant messaged an old buddy from high school, I probably wouldn’t mind. But if it was an ex-girlfriend, I know I would feel differently. And if he tried to hide it from me and lied when confronted with the evidence, it would become more than suspicious.

This is the dilemma many spouses find themselves in. Having sought therapy myself for a similar situation, I understand how it feels to have the bond of trust destroyed. I understand how it feels to be lied to. The reality is that more and more people are finding themselves in these situations every day. Rather than turning inward toward a spouse, or trying to resolve marital issues through therapy, communication and hard work, many people find it much easier, and instantly gratifying, to feed their egos through seemingly innocent virtual contact.

Gone are the days where you go flirt harmlessly with the bartender at the local watering hole to get that emotional pick-me-up (and that’s dangerous too). Nowadays frustrated spouses grab their smart-phone, laptop or iPad and begin reaching out to old flames or even complete strangers. If they weren’t already vulnerable, perhaps it would end there. But the truth is that social media has made cheating more than a temptation for people on the fence of infidelity. It has made it an accessible, efficient and clean way to keep a dirty little secret. Whether someone is addicted to sexual infidelity or not, what can begin as a few simple emails can quickly spiral into a full-blown emotional affair. And that is exactly what it is, an affair. I have heard it said many times that it is cheating if you can’t do it in front of your spouse. And I highly doubt Anthony Weiner’s wife was taking the now infamous pictures of him. So, call it what you want, I’m sticking with full-fledged infidelity.

And what does this do to the spouse? What type of issues does that person develop as a result of the infidelity? First of all, their self-esteem takes a big hit. They begin to compare themselves to the other person, or people. They doubt their physical appearance, their ability to satisfy their partner, their own self-worth. And they develop significant trust issues. I can tell you from my own experience that I forgave my spouse, almost immediately. But forgetting? That was another story entirely. As much as someone can try to put those images, messages, feelings of hurt behind them, the guilty spouse is a daily reminder of the trauma. Trusting again becomes an immense challenge. And for people who suffer with mental health issues on a good day, the shock of this type of event can have a significant impact on recovery.

So what should we take away from all of this? Should Wiener resign because he’s a cheating husband? Before we cast our vote for the next candidate, should we demand a virtual forensic inventory of their electronic gadgets to see if they are beyond reproach? Should we spy on our spouses to see if they are engaging in virtual escapades? Or should we delete some of the friends on our own Facebook pages who may tempt us when we ourselves are feeling less than desirable? As nice as it would be to have an infidelity filter installed on all of our devices, it would not solve anything. If there is a problem in the relationship, or with the person seeking attention, the problem will still exist. And that’s where recovery should start. People should stand up and take responsibility for their actions from the get go. They should stop the insanity and save what little bit of dignity, and chance at forgiveness, they have. Perhaps they may even have a shot at redemption when they admit they are only human.

Some people believe social media is the root of today’s infidelity. I disagree. If someone is inclined to cheat, you can take away their Blackberry and you’ll most likely still find them at the local watering hole, hitting on that bartender.

Related Articles:
What Is the Right Thing to Do When an Old Lover Connects With You Online?
Social Networking & Sex Addiction Challenges
Tiger Woods’ Tale: Apology and Forgiveness

© Copyright 2011 by Jen Wilson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Hannah

    Hannah

    June 13th, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    What a loser this schmuck is! I fail to understand how all of these high profile men just do not think that the wife is good enough anymore so they have to seek alternatives to the wife, who more than likely has no idea that this kind of crap is going on. Social media is not the blame for all of this. It is the poor decision making skills that this group of dumb you know whats are making with their lives. And to top it all of in this case the wife is beautiful and pregnant! How is this not good enough?

  • KB

    KB

    June 13th, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    It’s different for different people but I would never be able to take this kind of an action from my wife.And forgetting it is not gonna happen in a million years.This I am sure about for me.

    And regarding the role that social media is playing,although it may make things easier for a cheater,social media cannot really be blamed for it.Just like video cameras were not made to shoot porn,social media wasn’t made to foster illicit relationships.It all depends on the person and if he or she is a cheater then he or she will cheat!

  • Emmanuel D.

    Emmanuel D.

    June 13th, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    Great article, Jen! Social media makes it so much easier to connect with another if you’re feeling lonely and vulnerable. That’s why it’s such a popular route to infidelity. There’s no having to find them in a bar or in the phone book and pursue them there. A click of a mouse and you’re there.

    I think particularly when the old friends from high school crop up on Facebook, especially old high school sweethearts, it’s time to be cautious and keep a cool head. Their reappearance stirs up fantasies about how it could have been with their first love and then get nostalgic about the hopes and dreams they had back then, and compare that to their lives now. Of course they forget their first love’s aged twenty years or more too, now has a history and troubles of their own and isn’t that lovestruck teen anymore. But if two old high school sweethearts that are feeling dissatisfied with life and marriage get together online even innocently at first, it’s a recipe for disaster.

    No-one ever forgets their first love or more significantly, the emotional highs that brought about.

  • kim hawkes

    kim hawkes

    June 13th, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    agree with hannah…social media is not to blame…the individual is…personal responsibility is extremely important…i’m surprised goodtherapy would put out such a immature angle to what’s transpired here…it’s not a question of infidelity…from what we’ve learned so far…but trust…and there is no clean way to keep a dirty little secret…please

  • Janice

    Janice

    June 14th, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    He was wrong and I think that he knows that. But have any of us ever found ourselves in similar situations, thinking about how easy it would be to get into an online relationship due to the anonimity that it allows?
    I am not making any kind of excuses because it was wrong, and has more than likely killed his career and marriage. But I understand how much easier these venues allow you to get sucked in and the just like anything else once you start you find it difficult to stop.

  • JBird

    JBird

    June 14th, 2011 at 5:33 AM

    The person is to blame, social media is just a vehicle. I found out my husband was having an online/email/text affair with a co-worker. It’s just as devastating. He said they didn’t meet in person, therefore it was just “fantasy” (although they spilled their guts to each other and spoke many times of meeting up to have wild sex).

    2 1/2 years later and I’m still suffering from the broken trust, the pain of rejection, and the very low and eroded sense of worth. I’m still with him (??) because we have small kids.

    This kind of affair is NO different than physical infidelity, it just as harming, and it seems that people have ZERO integrity anymore, it’s as though that “high” is more fulfilling than anything you’ve committed yourself to.

    Such a shame, a devastating shame.

  • Brandon

    Brandon

    June 14th, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    While it is upto the person,social media and other online avenues have made it a lot easier to seek out partners outside of your committed relationship or marriage. Heck, I’ve even seen dating sites online that are specially catering to married people! What have we come to?!

  • Up, Down and All Around... with Jen :-)

    Up, Down and All Around... with Jen :-)

    June 14th, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    Whew! I can feel the heat of your comments! And to Kim, I agree with you one hundred percent. It is a trust issue. According to media reports, Weiner had engaged in this type of behavior before he got married, and his wife knew about it. So what do you do when someone you love breaks that trust? Do you forgive, cross your fingers and hope that it doesn’t happen again, and move forward? I know I tried that route, but the pain cuts so deep sometimes there’s no way to fully heal. Through therapy, I found that the issues that led to the broken trust in my relationship had nothing to do with sex, as is usually the case. So what makes some people, like Hillary Clinton, forge onward, while others, like Sandra Bullock or Elin Nordegren Woods, cut all ties? Is it the depth of their love, the agenda of their marital arrangement, or their own inner compass?

  • lauren

    lauren

    June 14th, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    if you can’t stay committed to one person then why marry at all?it is people like these that make useful avenues and resources(social media,in this case) seem like negative things that are poisoning our lives.truth be told,it is these people that are poisoning the soiciety.I mean,what kind of leaders and role models are they trying to become with this kind of a behavior?

  • Hugh Walters

    Hugh Walters

    June 14th, 2011 at 10:34 PM

    I think all this controversy about Anthony needs to be put aside. What he does in his personal life is none of our business. I don’t care who he’s having sex with, as long as it’s not my wife. And last I heard, he hadn’t actually had sex with them, just flirted online.

    Can he do his job? That’s what matters.

  • Brad Matthews

    Brad Matthews

    June 14th, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    @Hugh, I am glad to hear from a man there that thinks like I do. Several are going on about how if he lies about his personal life, how can we expect him to be honest in politics. That’s a load of rubbish. We don’t ask that of any other profession.

    People have the right to lie about their PERSONAL lives if they don’t want to discuss it or just whistle and say “Now THAT’S a personal question.”

  • J.C.A.

    J.C.A.

    June 15th, 2011 at 1:16 AM

    If a man was to act like that and say he didn’t like his wife talking to her ex, he would get derided for being paranoid and controlling.

    Apparently it’s okay if you’re a woman. A real double standard if there ever was one there.

  • lashika

    lashika

    June 15th, 2011 at 4:32 AM

    Is he gonna resign or what? His wife needs to kick his sorry behind to the curb and his constituents do too. This is behavior that is unbecoming to any man, and especially to someone in such a position of power. And the thing that I think about the social media’s role in all of this is that it really made him a whole lot easier to do the smarmy things that he was gonna do anyway.

  • Dominic Briers

    Dominic Briers

    June 15th, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    The problem is most women that see that as cheating are seeing it wrongly. Your man talking to another woman isn’t cheating. Him complimenting her isn’t cheating. When he starts flirting with her and having sex with her, then yes, he’s cheating.

  • H. Moore

    H. Moore

    June 16th, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    @Dominic–I actually broke up with my previous girlfriend mainly because of her very twisted definition of “cheating”. My crime? I didn’t unfriend every female I knew on Facebook when I got engaged to her. Then I must be cheating with them she said, all because I refused.

    Jealousy is one thing I have no patience with in a girlfriend. That was the last straw. I don’t like my closest female friends being referred to as tramps nor my fidelity being in question.

  • stefan b.

    stefan b.

    June 16th, 2011 at 8:51 PM

    He should resign! When you’re in politics every decision you make or vote for affects us, the little people. That’s why we demand higher standards from you.

    If you cannot control such impulses, who’s to say you won’t be blackmailed into voting a certain way? No, he must go and should have done so immediately to save his wife any further embarrassment in the press.

  • Jim Chambers

    Jim Chambers

    June 17th, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    Any half of a couple who feels worried their partner may cheat or be cheating should seek therapy for themselves to safeguard their own mental wellness. Many of those cases are simply centered around their own insecurity blowing it out of proportion.

    Granted, some are correct but many are not.

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