“Why are you freaking out? I just liked a picture... jeez.”
How would you feel if you knew that your partner was always seeking out other people on social media? It could be that they're secretive about that new person they frequently Snapchat, or that they consistently erase their direct message threads. Maybe they’re following a few new, attractive people every day, or maybe they’re always liking those cute-but-revealing picture.
Regardless, it all begins to seem a little suspicious, but you write it off, thinking, “maybe I’m just overreacting." Without any real evidence of wrong-doing and to avoid sounding overly-protective or insane, you decide to keep your worries to yourself. A pattern starts to develop, though, and soon you find yourself jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, and growing increasingly distrustful of your partner.
Ultimately, your partner’s shady online interactions are characteristic of the new, ever-treacherous trend that is sparking arguments and ending relationships—micro-cheating! Micro-cheating is the catch-all term for every interaction that serves as a gateway to actual, incontestable infidelity, and it is most often done through social media.
Social media is temptation’s worst nightmare. While social media has many purposes, it has mainly become an outlet by which to receive validation from others. As a result, we are altering the content that we publish online, sub-consciously knowing what may or may not generate more “likes." This, in turn, leads many people to post more revealing photos that can increase temptations and create a morally-questionable scenario when "liked" by somebody who is in a relationship.
What makes micro-cheating so easy (and so hard to catch) is the fact that all of our online interactions are left up to interpretation—miscommunications are common and we all perceive engagement from others differently. It’s important to be especially conscious of how your partner may perceive your online interactions given the nature of your specific relationship.
For example, if they have been cheated on in the past and are already insecure about having someone stay loyal to them, it would be respectful to avoid all questionable interactions altogether.
Micro-cheating can also be largely attributed to the fact that we now seem to avoid putting definitive labels on relationships, therefore not establishing clear boundaries and expectations. This type of ambiguous relationship is becoming so common that we can now refer to it as a "situationship." Cosmopolitan.com accurately describes this newly-coined term by saying “If 'friends with benefits' is platonic friends with sexual benefits, a situationship is a hookup with emotional benefits." While situationships are an entirely different problem of their own, micro-cheating (through social media) is commonly seen in them due to the lack of boundaries having been established.
Additionally, if you yourself are guilty of micro-cheating, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship(s). Think of the person you’re with and how they would feel if they knew where your intentions lay. If you aren’t ready or interested in being committed to just one person, let them go! While less common, non-monogamous relationships are always an option and may better suit your needs.
Call me paranoid, over-protective, insecure, whatever. I’ve noticed this phenomenon both in my life and in others’, and know that it’s too often easily dismissed. You have every right to be concerned if it seems like your partner’s online activity is getting a little too friendly, and considering the possibility that their intentions may not be pure is an act of pre-emptive self-defense. Know that it's possible to discuss this with your partner without starting a fight or making accusations, while still establishing clear expectations and boundaries moving forward.
I’m not saying to assume your partner is guilty of micro-cheating, but trust your intuitions and don’t ignore the red flags.
If they are obviously expressing interest in other people, how serious can they really be about you?