As your significant other exits the room for a brief moment and leaves their phone behind, you succumb to the temptation of quickly checking their best friends on Snapchat or swiping through their DMs. It's not that you don't want to trust them, it's that the dawn of our technological age has made it hard to do so. In a world where you could create a Tinder profile and match with someone within minutes, it's no surprise that sometimes, you're left questioning your partner's loyalty. I'm not saying that all partners cheat, as many of us currently have or have had loyal partners in the past, I'm saying that more and more partners are tempted to do so. With technology at their fingertips and conversation history at their disposal, cheating in a relationship in the 21st century is inevitable.
Back when people did not have computers, laptops and cell phones, cheating was less common. This lack of technology established barriers that made it harder to not only be tempted to cheat, but also to get away with it. Back then, people had to establish face-to-face connections with others and if they felt a certain connection with a colleague or friend was bordering the line of infidelity, they could easily remove themselves from the situation. Nowadays, the instantaneous connections established behind a screen are inescapable.
So how do social networks make us more prone to cheating? Temptation is an essential component that propels us to cheat. The adrenaline rush you receive when crossing the border of infidelity without your partner's knowledge is enough to make you want to do it again. The secrecy that is made possible by deletable text messages, self-erasing Snapchat messages, and disposable Instagram DMs adds to the temptation and plays to the benefit of the cheater. In this day and age, you can easily "sext" with someone that you don't know without your partner's knowledge.
Scientific evidence supports the notion that visual sexual stimulation drives temptation. Heather A. Rupp (Ph.D.) and Kim Wallen (Ph.D.) published a study on what is known about how men and women respond to the presentation of visual sexual stimuli. This study confirmed that men are more susceptible to being visually sexually stimulated than women are. This means that men are more likely to be stimulated by a Snapchat picture from someone they're sexually attracted to because it appears and then vanishes, oftentimes without the receiver getting caught.
I'm not just pointing fingers at men, as women who cheat are more likely to seek an emotional connection with those that they cheat with, while men who cheat tend to refrain from establishing an emotional connection. This claim is supported by a survey conducted on the extramarital site, Undercover Lovers. The site surveyed 2,000 men and 2,000 women involved in extramarital affairs. The survey found that 27 percent of the male cheaters said they felt love for the woman with whom they cheated with while 57 percent of the female cheaters said they felt love for the man with whom they cheated with. The stereotype that men are more likely to cheat than women is a large misconception, as the growth of technology contributes to both sexes engaging in infidelity.
Another interesting component in cheating includes the reigniting of old flames. As psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz states in his article on the influence of technology on cheating, "Facebook, in particular, sets us up: not for the life we want, but for the life we had. Or wanted to have." Although glancing at the timeline of someone from your past could be harmless, it could also contribute to the imagining of scenarios that could have been. What if it had worked out between us? Or what if we tried again? As stated by Dr. Saltz, the mind often glorifies relationships of the past while "leaving out annoying details."
Although technology allows for the evidence of infidelity to be erasable, it doesn't erase the guilt behind it. The messages that you forget to delete may not only cause fights when your significant other finds them, but feelings of wrongdoing when you come across them yourself. You begin to question the foundations of your relationship and oftentimes realize that no matter how bumpy your relationship is, it isn't worth risking for a short affair.
Fortunately, there are ways to steer clear of cheating. For one, you could cut back on spending time on your phone when you're with your partner. A good tip that can be applied not only when you're eating with your significant other but also when you're eating with your friends, family, or both is to have everyone place their phones on silent and stack them in the middle of the table. This trick allows for you to establish and maintain face-to-face social connections in a world that is constantly updating. Another essential tip is to be aware. If you feel yourself crossing the line of infidelity with someone, whether it's through text, Snapchat, Twitter DM, or Facebook, establish boundaries or pull back and avoid further contact with them. My best advice is to remove any old flames from social media, unless you are willing to be tempted into an emotional affair. And remember, your partner finding out about an emotional affair can be just as painful as your partner finding out about a physical affair.