The story is not yet cliché but is becoming far from unique: a person accidentally (or purposefully) accesses their spouse's Facebook page and finds condemning evidence of an affair. A messy divorce soon follows.
This increasingly common scenario causes one to wonder: does limitless use of social media sites actually increase the likelihood of marital infidelity?
Social Media in Our Lives
The growing impact of social media upon our lives is no secret. Use of websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter now account for over 22 percent of our time spent online, according to the Nielsen Company. Trends indicate that this number will only grow.
People enjoy social media's ability to create or maintain friendships, reconnect with old friends and instantaneously share information and photos. This new online existence provides exciting opportunities for people. However, these media-driven relationships sometimes turn from innocent to intimate.
From Innocence to Infidelity
While inappropriate online behavior often stems from an already existing marital discord, that isn't always the case.
Social media presents an unprecedented platform where old lovers can reconnect and married adults can flirt with other people - perhaps after convincing themselves that marital boundaries online differ from those offline. Sites like Facebook provide such an easy ability to connect with others that the opportunities for cheating are plentiful and readily accessible.
Given the prevalence of social media in daily life, it may be a good idea for couples to set basic social media guidelines for each partner to follow when engaging in such online communications. These guideposts can prevent invitations to infidelity from materializing:
- Share passwords with each other: Partners that share login information with each other are far less likely to have inappropriate online communication. Couples can simply achieve this by posting a note containing each spouse's login information on or near their home computer.
- Share your social media existence: Couples should post and comment on each others' "walls" and share Facebook friends. These simple steps demonstrate an ongoing relationship between partners that might not otherwise be visible to an outside person who considers flirting with one of the spouses.
- Use and discuss Facebook in front of your partner: Partners should freely use social media in the presence of their significant others, there should be nothing to hide. If one person is engaging in secretive social media use, their spouse should gently inquire about their partner's Facebook use in a way that demonstrates genuine curiosity, not suspicion. One spouse's openness can facilitate another to share.
Open communication is key in most long-term relationships. Learning to adapt trust to new technologies and the digital way of life is just another step in strengthening committed relationships.