Most of us have some version of ourselves on a social networking site. We seem to lead a real life, in which we interact with significant others and coworkers in person, and an online life, in which we have the possibility of catching up with our best friend from sixth grade or rekindling a first love. At some point, our real life melds with our online life, especially in regards to affairs of the heart. Take for instance, David and Amy Pollard, who met in a chat room in 2003 and later married after discovering their mutual love of the internet game “Second Life,” players interact with other players through their avatars, or online character, in a virtual world. David’s avatar had a penchant for hookers and began an affair with character playing a prostitute. Upon discovering her husband’s “ultimate betrayal,” Amy filed for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behavior because her husband had revealed he’d fallen in love with the virtual female character. The Pollards interacted in their marriage on “Second Life” and in the real world equally.
The Pollards are an extreme case, but their experience exhibits how difficult it is to answer what constitutes cheating in our online worlds, especially since we use so many forms of online communication.
Facebook and Other Social Networking Sites
Friending an ex or someone of whatever team you play for isn’t cheating in and of itself. You’re just using Facebook for its purpose — networking. But things get hairy if you’re relying on that ex or friend for emotional support and telling him/her things you haven’t revealed to your current partner. You’re embarking on what is known as an emotional affair. You might not have gotten down and dirty with someone else, but you’ve pushed your partner away and have let someone else in. Also, consider yourself a cheat if you take the next step and use the messaging tools to set up clandestine meeting. But if that clandestine meeting is really a surprise party for your significant other, then you’re in the clear.
Whatever you’re into sexually you can find just by typing it into Google. If you enjoy masturbating to photos of Jenna Jameson or George Clooney, you’re not cheating, you just need more of an imagination (just kidding). These people aren’t real to us, but are just a fantasy. Everyone deserves a break from their partner, and it’s ridiculous to think you’re the object of all your partners desires. But if you masturbate to photos of people you and your partner actually know, then you’re cheating. Unlike the celebrity fantasy, in this situation you actually have the ability to make your dreams come true. It’s safer for your relationship if you avoid connecting a real person with a possible fantasy.
Instant Messaging, Chat Rooms, And Video Chatting
Virtual flirting is harmless. For some, an “XOXO” or emoticon is the only way to end a conversation. And flirting with that guy with the hot avatar can actually get you ready for your real guy. But if you’re flirting escalates into sex talking and/or showing, then you’re a cheater because you’re getting sexual fulfillment from another person, plain and simple.
What constitutes cheating in our online world is different for a lot of people, but most agree that it involves some form of betrayal. The safest way to keep from cheating — in the real world and the virtual world — is to listen to your gut. If it feels wrong, then it probably is.