Since starting a psychotherapy practice 15 years ago, I've witnessed three basic waves of technology-based infidelity.
Back in the '90s, my clients generally discovered infidelity when opening their partner's cell phone bill. The story was pretty much the same for all of these clients: they would see countless calls to the same number, dial it up and find themselves speaking with the object of their partner's indiscretions. Then came email, the second wave of technology-assisted infidelity. These stories began to emerge in the late '90s. Suspicious partners would log in to their partner's email account and find plentiful evidence of extra-relational activities, if not outright proof of cheating. Watch: Do you snoop on his email?
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The third wave began to break in late 2007, when Facebook expanded beyond its origins on college campuses. Facebook infidelity is insidious, and it differs from other technology-facilitated cheating because it begins in apparent innocence. Indeed, Facebook serves as a platform for communication that can lead, almost accidentally, to infidelity. For the most part, Facebook relationship rifts are not about clear-cut physical affairs. Instead, they are about lingering on fidelity's edge. Facebook infidelity begins when the technology, and the relationship that it enables, take too much of someone's emotional energy. Facebook Causes Romantic Jealousy
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Recently, one of my clients, a 31-year-old mother of two, complained, "My husband is on Facebook all day! He has more than 500 friends! Who are these people anyway? At this point it's official, I'm a full-fledged Facebook Widow. Help!"
I have heard this term now—"Facebook Widow" (or, less frequently, "Facebook Widower")—more times than I can count. In fact, it is fast becoming one of the most common issues to surface among my therapy clients.