Cyber Sensation: When the Internet Meets Infidelity

It started off with Yahoo! Pool. After a long day of work, my father kicked off his shoes, ate dinner with the family, and checked his email on the computer in his office. Often times, he played Yahoo! Pool, an online game where users can play online pool and chat. Increasingly, my dad spent less time with the family, and more of his hours in isolation in the study, apparently playing this game. Overheard fights behind closed doors informed me that my dad was using other chat rooms for hours on end, to the outrage of my mother. Things escalated quickly, but I was a virtually clueless middle schooler at the time. International “ski trips” (used to rendez-vous with his Swedish mistress), money transfers, expensive gifts lead to pieces of technology being thrown out the window, and my parents marriage bit the dust.

The reality is that my situation isn’t that singular. Apparently, one third of divorce proceedings are due to cyber-affairs. Although the relationships created online aren’t necessarily physical, they still breach the emotional and sexual exclusivity of a marriage in secret, which may have the same impact on a spouse’s trust as a physical affair. Unlike standard cheating, which consists of hurried workplace hookups and seedy motel rooms, a cyber affair can happen right at home. With the advent of the cell phone, virtual infidelity is possible practically anywhere.  Under the anonymity of the Internet, people can indulge in fantasies and escape reality through a glorified identity.

photo courtesy of Ashley Madison

photo courtesy of Ashley Madison

Online dating websites have definitely taken advantage of the thrill of illicit internet affairs. One site, Ashley Madison, markets directly to people in relationships, with the slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair”. Because AM is intended for cheating, the site survey’s one’s sexual preferences in detail and has the ability to send “private photos”. The service even caters to the “Traveling Man” or “Traveling Woman”, for quick on the road hookups. Imagine if Mad Men’s Don Draper had access to a lap top!

Recovery.org, a website dedicated to assisting people to overcome their addictions, conducted a study called “To Catch a Cheater”, where 40 fake internet profiles, half men and half women, were posted on OkCupid, all with varying degrees of commitment; “brazen cheats”, married, in a relationship, and single (the control group). Using data from Ashley Madison, the daters were placed in the most adulterous cities in the United States, including D.C., Miami, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Austin.

image courtesy of recovery.org

image courtesy of recovery.org

After one month into the experiment, it turns out that both male and female “Brazen Cheats” got more messages than any other category. Males received 7.9% of the total messages, and the women received 92.1%. However, most of the messages that the willingly cheating men received were filled with insults and questioning of the integrity of the profile. The study concluded that a woman seeking an adulterous one night stand was much more appealing to men than a man cheating on his wife was appealing to women.

As online dating becomes an increasingly common way for singles to find potential dates and life partners, the finding that people seeking adultery received more attention is alarming. Is online dating becoming a platform for corruption and sin? Although the results are discouraging, hopeful singles shouldn’t be alarmed, because when it comes to finding “the one”, its about quality, not quantity.

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