Is Adultery Impossible To Avoid In The Age Of Social Media?

Even though the hullabaloo surrounding the Tiger Woods Infidelity Tour has subsided a bit, the public's fascination with adultery carries on as always, leading Lesley Ann-Jones of the Daily Express to ask: "Has adultery just become a cool pastime?"

Sparked by the recent release of Tiger Text, an iPhone application which helps cheating spouses hide their texting trails, Jones wonders if adultery has become so commercialized that it's lost all meaning: "What can I get you," Jones writes, "the number of a specialist adultery dating agency? Links to websites offering to set you up with an extra-marital affair? How about one of these fancy hotels offering discreet infidelity packages? All this see-no, hear-no is yours, darling, for the going rate, of course."

Yet in all honesty, I don't necessarily think an industry based on infidelity is anything new (I don't know how else the Starlight Motel near my hometown would still be around without it, really), and though there are technological innovations and businesses built specifically to aid people in their extra-marital affairs, I'm fairly certain people have been using the internet and shady means on their cell phones to cover their tracks for years. It is the commercialization of adultery, the in-your-face nature of it, that seemingly disturbs Jones, as the organization of it all seems to lend some legitimacy to the venture; you plan your affair in the same distant manner you'd plan a trip on Expedia, it seems.

But do we even need commercialized adultery to perform the act online? Polly Vernon of The Guardian seems to think not, noting that most of us, even the most faithful, "are, at the very least, testing the borders of fidelity via the medium of text message, or Facebook connections, or Twitter exchanges; the Vernon Kays of the non-celebrity sphere. And some of us are having fully fledged, old-fashioned, impassioned affairs." Of course, this brings us back to the concept of "emotional affairs," and the notion that infidelity does not begin and end with physical contact. In an era where people are increasingly reachable via social media, the lines have become blurrier, and, in that regard, it may be harder to notice when they're being crossed.

I found myself a bit frustrated reading Jones and Vernon: Jones' article has a "will somebody please think of the marriage?!" panic tone to it, as if the technology being available is directly responsible for grown adults making the choices they choose to make within—or outside of—the boundaries of their own relationships. Vernon, on the other hand, drops lines like "Why are we living this dichotomy? Why do we support the idea of monogamy so heartily while not managing to be monogamous? Why do we persist in having affairs, persist in believing in monogamy, when we're not comfortable with or especially capable of either?" which assumes that everyone on earth struggles with the concept of monogamy, which is untrue.

The panic flags seem to be raised on both sides: everybody's being tricked into having affairs! People can't help but have affairs! What is lost amongst the panic, and the discussions of technology and online adultery business and iPhone applications is the discussions that most likely need to take place between the couples themselves: perhaps instead of worrying about apps and sites and Facebook affairs, we should worry about our inability to communicate without the use of a Qwerty keyboard.

Is Anyone Faithful? Infidelity In The 21st Century [Guardian]
Has Adultery Just Become A Cool Pastime? [DailyExpress]