'Online infidelity can be addictive', says new study

Research finds cheaters believe the internet has made infidelity much easier thanks to technology.

Carl Anka
Friday 23 October 2015 11:50 BST
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People who have been cheated on by someone they are in a committed relationship with think the internet has made infidelity easier - and addictive.

That's according to psychology academics at The Open University, who have found that the internet has made relationships more like fast food - naughty, cheap and very often enjoyed alone without the exhaustion of social niceties.

One subject who was unfaithful online wrote in the anonymous online survey: “I tried to stop but neither of us could, it would start again and since (sic) so easy, with all the technology we carry around it was an amazingly comforting and sexy thing to have. With long working hours an online relationship is like fast food, ready when we are, naughty, cheap, very often eaten alone without the exhaustion of social niceties.’

The ability to take on another persona online was also cited as a reason technology made infidelity easier. One woman, who had been on the receiving end of internet infidelity said “I have a deep mistrust in the internet, and feel it massively facilitates infidelity. My ex-husband is inherently a very shy man, but online he is able to act much more confidently and attract the attention of other women. I strongly believe he would not have had so many affairs without the internet.”

Elaborating further on their research, Dr Vossler states, “What our research has revealed is that men and women do see internet infidelity differently. But it is not just a gender divide – what is experienced as infidelity online can vary from person to person. What might be seen as casual chatting by one partner, is hurtful and disloyal to the other for instance.

“With the Internet and social media now being part of everyday life in the Western world, there are growing opportunities for partners to engage in online behaviours and activities that may be considered unfaithful in the context of a committed relationship (including e.g. cybersex, exchanging sexual self-images, online flirting and dating). This matters because infidelity commonly causes significant relationship distress and can have a negative and deteriorating effect on marriages and families.”

Both researchers cite a lack of information on online behaviou and its impact as reasons for this grey area on internet infidelity, with Dr Moller calling for those in committed relationships to think harder about their attitudes towards social media. Those willing to take part in further anonymous studies were also welcomed to come forward.

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