Adam Levine’s adulterous DMs have been circulating the internet recently, inspiring no end of mockery in the form of memes.
Digital infidelity, or cheating on a partner via social media, is a modern phenomenon, but cheating itself is hardly new. Infidelity is about as old as humankind and evolves with society and technology. Social media has only recently become part of the equation.
More than it causes new issues, social media amplifies existing social problems, including loneliness. Part of social media use is conspicuous consumption—excessive choice for which the human brain isn’t designed.
On apps like Instagram, people are commodified in ways they aren’t in real life. We often fall prey to the belief that more is better, especially when we’ve come to expect it as social media makes people consumable like any other thing bought and sold online.
Watching others’ lives as entertainment isn’t healthy, especially if it makes us compare our partners to a well-constructed fantasy.
Social media is a highlight reel—a place to present an idealized version of yourself. It doesn’t take much to be intrigued by the fantasy someone builds online. Although most of us know what we see doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, we’re often willing to suspend our disbelief enough to keep the fantasy alive.
It can start with an innocent “Happy Birthday” on an ex’s wall and develop into a full-blown digital affair. Out of sight, out of mind—old relationships are only a few taps away on social media.
Internet communication can feel detached from reality. The idea of infidelity may be easier to stomach when it seems less real, and we feel removed from what it really means to cheat.
Many people hesitate to leave unfulfilling relationships and struggle to have honest conversations with themselves and their partners. It’s harder to admit your relationship has issues than it is to blame Instagram for your impulses.
Using social media to seek romantic or sexual attention outside a monogamous relationship has to do with a desire for an arrangement that’s both thrilling and low effort. Distracting ourselves with immoral fantasy is easier than facing our relationship challenges.
Regardless of the means—letters, texts, Facebook messages, or carrier pigeon —the moral implications of infidelity are the same.
However, the immediacy of the internet makes acting on impulses easier and more convenient than ever before. There’s less time to consider the consequences of sending a risqué DM.
Even if social media makes cheating practical, it still doesn’t justify it.
If you’re thinking about people “on the backburner,” that’s already a problem. When simply seeing other options on social media is enough to make you consider cheating, it’s probably time to end things in real life.
Real-world social skills don’t translate to online interactions, so as internet communication evolves, we must set boundaries for social media use within relationships.
We have complete control over what we do and who we engage with online. It can be tempting to try to deflect blame when we do something wrong, but ultimately infidelity is a choice.
Social media may be toxic, but our poor decisions are our own.
Adam Levine, cheating, Pop Culture, romantic relationships, Social media
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