Pixelated Love: Modern couples forced to reevaluate infidelity

In Columns, Features
When flirtation can occur without making a sound, couples are forced to redefine infidelity on their own terms. Since most communication is done through the virtual world, cheating can be committed without ever making physical contact
(Patrick Do / Daily Titan)

Thanks to technology, the nature of some of humanity’s most fundamental questions have changed. No longer do we ask, “If a tree falls in the forest with no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Instead we ask things like, “Did I really go to that concert if I didn’t post a picture of it on Instagram?”

So much of our lives get documented through cell phone pictures, social media posts and saved text conversations. But because all of these things aren’t concrete, they are also easy to delete. Living our lives through cell phones and computers makes it easier to cover up our actions.

I’m not usually a very opinionated person, but I think frowning upon infidelity is something most people can agree on. Don’t cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend, because that’s just not cool.

But in recent years, infidelity hasn’t been so simple to define. What exactly does cheating on someone entail? Are emotional and physical infidelity equally bad?

Technology has made everything from navigation to photography easier for people. It may have also made it easier to cheat, or at least confuse people about what it means to cheat.

I had a friend who was in a long-term, long-distance relationship. She created a Tinder account to make up for the lack of attention from her boyfriend. Her reasons were that she didn’t see him often and they weren’t in the “honeymoon” phase anymore. Tinder was supposed to help her with the transition. She had no intentions of going out with any of the guys she talked to; it was just a little harmless flirting. I guess the question that comes up here is, “What constitutes ‘harmless?’”

Years later, the same couple finally broke up when my friend learned that her boyfriend had been texting inappropriate pictures to one of his female friends.

Most would agree that’s inexcusable, but her own actions are in more of a grey area. Would his actions have been okay if he had been sending explicit sexual descriptions, rather than an actual photograph? Or, what if he sent them to a stranger rather than a friend?

What is harmless and what is unforgivable? A line was definitely crossed here, but it’s hard to determine exactly where.

Is it inappropriate to text a co-worker or a friend 24/7 while in the company of your partner? It probably is, and that’s actually just kind of rude. But is it cheating? By putting more time and effort into that relationship than the one with your partner, are you being emotionally unfaithful?

Just as technology has made it easier to cheat, it has also made it easier to discover cheating. One day, a suspicious friend of mine tracked her husband, who had been spending a lot of time with a female co-worker, by using the GPS on his phone as he drove home from work. Sure enough, he stopped by a woman’s house.

However, my friend was left in an awkward position having to admit that she had tracked him on his way home from work, and still had no concrete evidence that he was being unfaithful. Which as it turned out, he hadn’t. They both laughed off the incident, and he agreed to stop spending so much time with the woman since it bothered his wife.

In hindsight, it seems like they should have just talked about it in the first place. Communication is probably one of the best ways to ensure that both members in a relationship are on the same page. But no one wants to come across as the crazy girlfriend or controlling boyfriend who asks, “Who have you been texting all day?” or, “You’ve been spending a lot of time with X lately … why?”

It’s probably best to have open conversations, rather than jump to conclusions or install tracking devices, or feel vaguely guilty and deleting some of your text conversations “just in case.”

My very first boyfriend broke up with me because I wrote “I love you” on another boy’s Facebook wall. To 16-year-old me, I was just telling a friend I loved him, and had no reason to be secretive about it. To my boyfriend, who didn’t have a Facebook and whose friends had told him about the post, this was blatant infidelity.

In the technologically driven world we’re living in, it seems the best way to avoid feeling betrayed or committing betrayal is to figure out what betrayal means in the relationship that you’re in.

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