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Technology and Cheating

submarineEons ago, I studied at the London School of Economics and took a course entitled “The Ethics of War.” It was my favorite class, taught by a very old, tweedy philosophy professor. One day the subject was the history of British submarines. Apparently, the technology for submarines, and then submarines themselves had been around for awhile before anyone had the notion to weaponize them. The professor explained that submarines were not used in warfare earlier,  because to attack someone underwater, from below, was considered “unsporting” to the British.

First the ethics had to change — and THEN the technology changed. First the British had to give themselves permission to be underhanded (or “under watered”)… and only then they could adopt this technology for warfare. Without this transformation, the technology would just exist in its benign form.

Big Aha moment for me. (Oh the joys of a liberal arts education.) Until then I never questioned the genesis of why certain things existed. But I liked chewing over this chicken or egg question — which comes first, the technology or the ethics?

Fast forward a few eons… I like Facebook. I like to see pictures of my cousins’ kids. I’m sincerely interested in the doings of my former college roommates, or the funny cat videos. And yet, I read comments and mail every day from chumps whose worlds were destroyed by Facebook when an old flame hooked up with their spouse. Some cheater weaponized Facebook with infidelity. Is it Facebook that is at fault, or the ethics of the user?

So often technology is blamed for an increase in infidelity. It’s so easy now, so ubiquitous, so many varied ways to cheat! Craigslist, Ashley Madison, porn sites, World of Warcraft even! So much temptation, how can we expect anyone to not trip over all that easy, skanky free sex out there?

I still come back to ethics. Ashley Madison does not bother me. I’m sorry it exists, but it only exists because there is a market for it. It didn’t come into being, and then the market appeared. I could go through my whole life and never google “Ashley Madison” because I have no need for it. It’s only there for the people who WANT to find it. Who have given themselves permission to cheat, to search for such a service — and that is a matter of the heart.

We could crusade and try and stamp out online dating sites, sexting software, porn, and online chat rooms, but why? What needs to change is the ethics of the users. Their entitlement.

If technology has given us more cheaters (I’m doubtful — think people who want to cheat will find a way to cheat, even if they’re Amish), it’s also given us more ways to catch a cheater. Keyloggers. GPS. Internet support sites, like Chump Lady. Shared wisdom and reconnoissance. Seems a wash to me — the technology works both ways to both enable cheating and hinder it.

So IMO what needs to change is the zeitgeist of entitlement, the culture that permits that kind of (to borrow a term from the playwright Tony Kushner) “psychotic individualism.” The Most Important Thing Is My Happiness (and fuck anyone who stands in my way).

Or put another way — if you’re married, don’t fuck people you aren’t married to. It’s unsporting.

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  • My STBX was sooooo thrilled when technology leaped forward in the early 1990s. He no longer had to rely on slinking into porn film houses or driving across town to buy his sicko magazines. You’re right, ChumpLady: They have always found a way, and they will continue to do so. It’s inside THEM, not inside us chumps.

  • Yup. I think very little technology was involved in my wife’s cheating. Good old-fashioned lying and gaslighting were enough for her.

  • My xH found the OW on FB. I don’t hate FB.

    He’d been trying to get with the girls at work, and before that, in our grad school class, but, more than likely, that never worked because a) those women knew him and his family and took a pass and, b) none of them were THAT crazy. (As far as I know, of course….)

    FB finally gave my xH a forum, where he and the twat troll could dazzle each other with lies and exaggerations! But that doesn’t make FB the devil. At least not as far as I am concerned. One day he may realize that he was made a fool on FB.

    xH is a dog–FB gave me a gift, in that it only hastened what was bound to happen one way or another.

    When the mask finally slipped for the last time–and I’d seen glimpses of the monster beneath it before–and when I was finally able to see xH for who he IS, not who I wanted him to be, then it all became clear: the dude never loved me. He even said so, just for added emphasis. FB just gave him and me each an out. It was the infidelity, perhaps facilitated by FB, but not caused by it, that gave me my life back. As it turns out, I don’t want to be with a guy like him. It was really hard being married to a man with no soul.

    Thank you, FB!

  • Or don’t get married if you want to sample multiple partners! And especially don’t get married as a convenient ‘front’. Gross and evil.
    I was just tonight thinking about finding on my x’s search history ‘Got to get laid tonight in (generic small town in Utah). Of course he said it was not for real. But, that’s an interesting use of the internet, for horny souless people to find a stranger to do. So, have some ethics, or don’t, your choice. I try to watch what I fill my conciousness with, once something’s in your mind, it’s hard to get it out!

    • I once found “guys fucking” in my ex’s search history. When I confronted him about it, he said, “So what?”

  • I think social media has made it easier to cheat because it encourages narcissism, and sprouted out of narcissism. As our society becomes more and more centered around entitlement, self-absorption, lack of responsibility and a “whatever makes me happy” mentality, social media is there to encourage all that and to offer an outlet for the cheating that is an offshoot of such thinking.

    • I do think there is something to the facilitation of narcissism by social media that GIA mentions here. My wasband is ALL OVER Twitter (Twatter) –granted he’s a software guy, but still…. doing foursquare, going here, there and everywhere. Plays, bars, dinners out. What he eats and drinks, how many guests. At least he doesn’t list who he fucks. I don’t look very often, just enough to make sure that he’s not posting shit that would be really gross for our kid to read.

      …like he did before I moved out when he *swore* (now let me think, where have I heard that before …oh! yeah! I know…) that he wasn’t “doing anything bad.” (He does SLAA). He was all over some shit with a random slag about curtains matching drapes, crags, valleys and whatnot… this on his work Twatter account, mind you. I put a stop post haste. Pointed out that if I could read it, our kid could, and could he please keep his gross-out behavior at least off the airwaves where she can see it?

      He reacted like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar (no, d’oh.). Promised his “group” that he’d go 30 days without slipping up–woo woo. Like I give a shit about that. At this point I just don’t want our kid to be publicly embarrassed, but if that’s where he wants to take this, then that’s where it will go. Ugh. Such entitled assholes.

      And he doesn’t even know that she thinks he’s, quote “pathetic”. Too right he is.

      But back to the point, with no social media, it would be a lot harder to pull this kind of stunt, and have an audience to follow you…you’d have to be a wandering minstrel (shreds & patches) to gain an audience.

      • They all seem to react like a kid caught with a hand in the cookie jar. It’s kind of funny when you think about it.

      • I’d like to see a wandering narcissist minstrel show! Entertain me! No, *you* entertain ME!

        • CL,

          You just described my STBX’s relationship with the minister Ho-Bag. I knew you had insight. I didn’t realize you were also psychic.

        • That was a wee Gilbert and Sullivan nod. Apologies all around. I’m sure at least one of them was NPD! But it’s from Koko’s entry “A Wand’ring Minstrel, I” (a thing of shreds, and patches). I’m sorry to say the G & S has the unfortunate quality of getting under your skin, and I did costuming for many years.

          Until, finally I costumed a production of Amadeus where my wasband was Mozart opposite an actress, who, he later told me, aroused him so much “he finally knew what a *real* woman felt like.” This while I was working my fingers to the bone making 18th century frock coats, especially for him. No joke. Well, let me revise that…HUGE joke. Just not a funny one.

    • My STBXH posted so many pics on fb of his smiling face, Look-at-me-I-just-turned-50-and-don’t-I-still-look-great! pics doing marathons and other races. It was disgusting and weird and NPD. He was careful not to contact the OW there. Well, he didn’t need to–they worked together and traveled together. But he did have other skanks leaving remarks on his wall about his hotness, which, when I objected to them he just kept them as friends and told them to block me. That’s normal, right? I could go on and on…

  • Technology permitted my exH to avoid working on our relationship, as he could retreat into that world. First, chat rooms in the late 1990s. Then FB, iPhone Scrabble., etc. the last 4 years of the marriage. He did no cheat with folks from those worlds, but the time spent on those activities kept him from addressing our issues when I asked him to reduce the time on the computer, etc.
    He denied there was an issue, just as he still denies new wife was an AP.

    • In another generation, it could’ve been golf, work, auto mechanics, Kiwanas… People who want to retreat, are going to retreat. But yeah, hand held devices make it so much easier. Just ask my teenager.

  • A friend who is a judge in Family Law court told me not a day goes by without someone bringing in a printout of a Facebook page to demonstrate their STBX’s infidelities and other hijinks they want the court to consider.

    • FB was where I first discovered that final OW wasn’t the only one…and it’s where I first discovered that Ex was also hooking up with other women while ‘with’ final OW. That led to reading his emails and, well, you can guess the rest of that story.

    • Technology makes it easier for cheaters to cheat, but they’ll still cheat.

      My STBXH is an IT guy, but technology made it easier for me to discover his cheating. I happened to pick up his cell phone before the autolock went on, and discovered all sorts of FB texts to OW. Also, his cell phone gave me access to the email he’d sent, too. He’s since changed his password, but since I’ve never directly confronted him about the affair, he’s still sloppy enough to leave stuff open on his computer.

      I think the EA started with sexting, and I’m not sure how that would have worked pre-texting days, but I’m sure he’d have figured out some way to play out the fantasy before committing to a PA.

    • Yup, mine posted “drunk and happy” on FB the week after I left him. With a nice photo of the beer he was drinking. Discretion is only for us non-narcissists, ya’ll.

      • Mine has been really careful with his FB profile, but OW “likes” every post he makes within nanoseconds of making it. She’s blocked me, so I can’t see that she likes it, but on the iPhone FB app, the app will tell you how many “likes” a post has. If you try to see who likes the post, and if someone who’s blocked you is among those, the like list will be off by one. Interesting, yes?

        OW is not a subtle woman. STBX can’t see that she’s trying to stake out her territory, but it’s really embarrassing that he’s so clueless.

          • My STBX’s OW is not too bright either….posting vacation photo’s of them together when he was “visiting his parents”. And all her friends congratulating her on their relationship. And yet he denies it….ummm why are there pictures of you and your ex wife (oh yes! they divorced 25 years ago) on the beach kissing when she lives across the country!! She blocked me a year ago…one of his friends sent it to me. All he cares about is who sent it…and of course that its not true. Right and I have this bridge to sell you…..really cheap like you and your ho ex wife. lol

        • You can create a phoney FB profile and then go in and see the OW ‘liking’ his posts.

  • Excellent article CL! It’s similar to the concept that guns don’t kill people…people kill people. The big difference is that social media sites, when used responsibly, don’t hurt anyone.

    Pornography has been socially acceptable since Playboy magazines. I read an article about Hugh Heffner. He was cheated on both times he was married. His first marriage prior to Playboy, while he was in the service, his wife cheated and forced an open marriage.

    So all these same problems existed even when all we had was ‘father knows best’

  • I think you’ve got a valid point here CL.

    I don’t know that these new technologies are actually nearly as responsible as the new societal “norm” of rampant self-love and “bullies operate from shame” and “victims are just pathetic people with low self-esteem” etc, etc, etc.

    Research has actually found that bullies do not have low self-esteem; they have undeserved high self-esteem. (Research has come to the same conclusion regarding Narcissistic Personality Disorder–no shame, just toxic self-love.) Bullies grow up to be abusers, NPD, and yes, cheaters. They genuinely believe they are better than those around them and feel they are entitled to live by a different set of rules. Sound familiar to anyone?

    Schools have now spent around 15+ years responding to bullies with whole “build their self-esteem” garbage. Research has found that feeding a bully affirmations actually makes them *more* toxic, while changing their behavior from overt aggression–which does not get as many ego-kibbles–to covert aggression. (The, I was only trying to help; I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think you could handle it; I knew you were really tired so I started getting sex on the side because I was thinking about you, etc, etc, etc. The really underhanded, on a smaller scale there’s a piece of you that wants to give a benefit of doubt, until the bullshit rises to such large things *no one* could look at it and think it was reasonable.)

    Someone took a psychologist’s pet theory for a spin in the educational system. We created a generation of sickos who were trained by school counselors how to fuck with your head.

    FB, Twitter, these things just make it easier to connect. Technology doesn’t force someone to get nekkid with a colleague, or screw the babysitter, or take up with their high school sweetheart that lives on the other side of town.

    Infidelity used to be a shameful secret. There’s a part of me that wonders if technology has actually revealed how common its always been, and removed some of the stigma, making it easier for people to be vocal about it. Once Andy went on FB and apologized to his FRIENDS for his affair (singular, he’ never admitted to the others) it became a moot point just who I told.

    I’ve kept quiet about the abuse in general, the sexual abuse in specific, the broken ribs, the women’s clothes I’ve found in my home (in my bedroom, in my *daughter’s* bedroom), etc. And the funny thing? Andy’s pissed at me for opening a FB page under another name and telling the truth about all this shit, straight up, no holds barred.

    Prior to FB, cheaters used classified ads. Technology is just another medium with which to connect.

    I’m not even sure the frequency of infidelity has increased. I’m more inclined to believe those cheating now simply have no shame or sense of responsibility to the people they’ve wronged. Thanks to the changes in the law, (thank you no-fault divorce) there’s very little recourse through the courts. You get your divorce, and you get the best settlement your attorney can manage within the *limits* of the law.

  • The technology didn’t “make” my STBX cheat – it just facilitated it. He is a passive-aggressive N and things like on-line porn just meant he didn’t always have to wait for videos to arrive in the mail. If he had not access to on-line porn or videos, he would have had reel-to-reel (like my mother had).

    The technology gave him access to a veritable buffet instead of just a regular meal which he might have had to prepare himself. At the root of it all is an instant gratification, I want what I want when I want it and I’m entitled to have it mentality that accompanies the use of the technology.

    Everything has it’s particular drawbacks (Exhibit A: “reality” TV, for instance) but the problem is not the technology, it is the intent of the Pig from Hell or Non-Pig from Hell user.

  • “The technology didn’t “make” my STBX cheat – it just facilitated it.”

    CP – I could say the same thing about my ex. When I really look back at our history together, and his history of relationships – I now see the neediness and the endless way he seemed to need adoration and attention. But it wasn’t until we got a computer that his “needs” became all consuming. It started with porn (and yes we used to watch it together) that after several years he was spending hours a day looking at, then it was chatting with other women, then it was flirting, then it was more graphic sex talk, then it was phone sex and cam sex and eventually all that wasn’t enough. Mind you, we were together all this time and still had an active sex life that for some strange reason was starting to fade. Humm… Anyway, next came the ho-worker parade until I finally realized that it wasn’t ever going to stop so I could either choose to live with a cheater or cut my self free and move on.

    Would this have happened if we didn’t have the internet? I really don’t know, probably. I do think that he always had an unhealthy fixation on sex, but boy o boy did the endless buffet of sex online just allow that addiction to thrive. In some ways Im glad that it did happen, because it finally made me face a lot of things that were not good in my marriage that before I was just willing to tolerate. Could we have stayed together and been happy? I think so. But irregardless of the cheating, he has a lot of selfish and childish personality traits and those would have never changed no matter what else was going on around us. Im starting to think of the end of my marriage not so much as a tragedy that could have been avoided if he’d have remained faithful. Perhaps the cheating was what I needed to face all of what was wrong between us and to find my courage to move on. All I know is that I am happier now, and its getting better every day.

    • “In some ways Im glad that it did happen, because it finally made me face a lot of things that were not good in my marriage that before I was just willing to tolerate. Could we have stayed together and been happy? I think so. But irregardless of the cheating, he has a lot of selfish and childish personality traits and those would have never changed no matter what else was going on around us. Im starting to think of the end of my marriage not so much as a tragedy that could have been avoided if he’d have remained faithful. Perhaps the cheating was what I needed to face all of what was wrong between us and to find my courage to move on. All I know is that I am happier now, and its getting better every day.”

      Well said, Angie. There are days when I wonder if I should send Ashley Madison a thank you note. The A opened up my eyes to who my XWH really was and how our marriage was pretty lackluster. Could we have fixed things with therapy? Perhaps, but my XWH didn’t want to do the work. I think he hoped that the A would force ME to change and to do whatever it was he wanted so that he was “happy.” I would have only been prolonging the inevitable divorce if I had tried to stick around and work things out. I’m glad that I didn’t bother; I’m so much happier without my XWH as well.

      • Angie, what you said!

        After D-day, my husband told me that he had been “interested” in porn since he was a teenager. I knew that he had some porn VHS tapes at one point. Then one day someone told him about “that” site – a video sex chat site. He literally went from online girlfriend that he told her that he thought of her as a real and special person in his life. He was totally infatuated and giddy like some junior high kid.

        This is a man who had always abhorred cheaters. I think that is why he adamantly refuses to view his betrayal as infidelity. He is unable to quit accessing that site, even just for free. I told him I will never feel safe in this marriage again. He also admitted to reading the Craigslists ads “for fun.” So, how long before he felt the need to take it to another level?

  • My ex was using IRC years ago to sext, that’s how I found out he was cheating the first time. If only I hadn’t believed his shit back in 1999, I’d have had many better years without him. He met the OW that led to divorce om 2009 on, he told me he wanted to look up some old buddies. After Dday I found that he has a myspace and FB account, both listed him as “single”. HAH, he is now.

    Tech makes it easier to find someone to hook up with – the bad side of it is that two people can use it to form an emotional attachment that leads to talking on the phone and all the while they are each others fantasy. By that I mean, they are able to project their best selves to one another for a long period before actually meeting. This I think is the reason tech facilitates cheating, it’s like building a virtual “Fantasy Island”.

    It is also the reason it is recommended that if you are on a dating site you should meet sooner rather than later.

    • Post didn’t finish, argh. should say;

      This I think is the reason tech facilitates cheating, it’s like building a virtual “Fantasy Island”. In RL some flirting goes on here and there, it’s perfectly normal – we all do it to some extent. In the virtual world it’s not quite “real” so that slight flirting escalates and goes over the line. Once over the line it keeps going – and pretty soon that innocent flirty thought about the other person goes full blown. I’m probably not explaining this very well…

  • As you who post here regularly know my H discovered an old love on FB. No I don’t blame FB but I don’t think this would have happened if this predatory bitch hadn’t started to feed him ego kibbles. He wasn’t the type to seek out women or to cheat; even now this “affair” is so sexless it is unbelieveable but still they text and talk almost daily. I sit back and wonder when I leave if she will come and live here with him. She will be leaving a job of some sorts and a grandchild behind plus friends and family to move in with a man she barely knows?

    • Janet, I thought the same about mine, and had the same story…HS friend, looked him up (they went to an International School in SE Asia, so reunions are all over the globe). they had an EA, then PA, then 2 year long EA… gross me out now.

      Turns out that (a) he was eager and ready; (b) it was the proverbial tip of the iceberg…. I found CraigsList ads, AdultFuckFinder Ads going back many years, Trashly Masdison, OKFuckmeCupid. There is probably more that I still don’t even know about.

      Point is, he started building Candyland *years* before ho-princess showed up with skankitude and her willingness to fuck any and all other women’s husbands….

      Men who “aren’t the type”…do not fall for the blandishments of FB skanks, they brush it off. Only fertile fields sprout affairs. If he did it, he was ready and wanted to, sorry. Maybe this is tough love, but if they’ve done it, they are the type, by definition. As our fearless leader says, “Trust that they suck.” And keep moving forward.

      [off to buy cat litter because cleaning up cat shit is preferable to cleaning up my marriage ! ]

      • True and probably he was dissatisfied with life and therefore I was the cause of his unhappiness.

    • It’s entirely possible. The OW in my situation moved herself and her two kids to our town (they lived about two hours away), and she married my XWH a month after our D was final. They do build up this big fantasy about each other and then take ridiculous leaps of stupidity and do long-distance moves, move in together, get married, have a child together… a sane person sees how irresponsible and thoughtlessly they’re behaving, but the cheaters are riding the high of their “luuuurve,” where there aren’t any consequences and life is lived entirely in the present.

    • mine did the same…this predatory bitch would come see from states away…he never went to her state….I kicked him out and he moved right in with her…left the state and away from his kids…but I love FB when the OW daughter posts My moms boyfriend is the meanest person I’ve ever met in my whole life …just a few days grass must not be so green on the other side!!!

  • Stbx’s affair was done the old fashioned way. He meet her through a mutual friend and then just lied about where he was going. Sure he used text email and fb to contact her throughout the affair but it wasn’t a cRucial part of it – the affair would have existed perfectly well just with phone calls and lusty meetups.

    Technology was my stbx’s downfall, in the end. He used fb to msg his AP 24/7… but fb also showed me a list of all the dates he went on. Busted. He used his cell phone to text/sext the ow24/7… but I also caught him texTing her several times after he supposedly was done with the affair. Busted. And it was the ATT family plan that allowed me to GPS him and confirmed that he was at her place. Busted again.

    So techNology was an easy way for him to coNtact the other women. …. but technology ended up bEing my savior because it showed me who he really was.

  • The iPhone and instant messaging played a huge role in my ex-spouse’s affair. He could be texting / chatting with her while sitting on the couch with me. The secretiveness with the iPhone was a huge red flag (password, taking the phone into the bathroom, flipping it over if I came into the room–really?). It allowed him to get away with a lot more for a lot longer, and also allowed the OW to keep up her campaign (imagine if she had to call him–much less likely, and much harder to conceal). The tech creates more opportunities to not be present with the person you are actually with.

  • A good friend mentioned in passing that her husband had friended a few exes on facebook. They are unhappily married. In my mind it’s only a matter of when, not if, at that point.

  • Dr. Drew wrote a book about narcissism being ramant in Hollywood and now has slithered across the country infecting many people. I know there has always been cheating but the technology of fb, cell phones, computers have made just a passing thought or idea much easier to become reality. Combine those two and you have broken marriages and broken hearts.
    Cheating is as old as humans have been on the planet but the communities in which they lived did something about it. I would recommend anyone with the thought of cheating to read “The Sisters Antipode” which is a memoir by Jane Alison. Her mother and father swapped spouses with another couple and wrecked two children’s lives. The chumps in that book were the girls who tried, and failed, to get their hearts and minds around the fact that their fathers had left them. The two men were in the diplomatic service and did not see their daughters for 7 years. There is no excuse for that. If you make your spouse a chump you are a sorry piece of shit but there is no word in the English language when you do the same to children

  • In Portuguese there’s a great expression that I think sums it up;

    “The opportunity creates a theft. But the thief was already a thief, before they ever stole.’

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