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Is Media Cheating Really Cheating?

Several years ago a survey claiming that extra-marital Facebook interactions were responsible for a whooping one third of all divorces caused a major frenzy and had the internet buzzing with speculation on the emerging role of social media in facilitating and possibly encouraging infidelity in relationships.

man having a web call with another girl
Are you having a sex conversation or just a flirty interaction?

The subsequent Ashley Madison hack did nothing to quell the hysteria. While aspersions were ultimately cast on the validity of the original survey's results, the question remained: is social media contributing to a greater amount of infidelities and is it simply replacing the older means of interacting with the opposite sex for something outside the bounds of a relationship.

However, while this question has remained resistant to straightforward analysis, it has prompted an even more problematic question. Namely, is the simple act of interacting in an intimate or sexual manner with someone outside your relationship via social media an act of infidelity in itself?

This question is by no means an easy one to answer but today, we are going to have a look at some of the complex viewpoints that have been raised in response to it.

What Counts as Cheating?

Cheating can mean very different things to different people. To some, the only thing that really constitutes cheating is a hookup for some sex.

For others, it is the act of getting emotionally involved with a casual sex partner that crosses the line of fidelity into the realm of infidelity. On the other side of the spectrum, some see the act of regularly visiting sex chat rooms as a form of cheating, or even just exchanging flirty texts on social media.

So: How can you understand whether your flirty texting is cheating in your case?

A Working Definition of Cheating

A very broad definition of cheating would be as follows: Any act that betrays a partner's expectations about the type of contact their opposite has with other people.

Now, we use the term broadly here because, with this definition, things can get pretty subjective pretty fast and one can find themselves on absurd ground all of a sudden.

For instance, it may very well be the case the your partner has very unrealistic expectations of how you should limit your interactions with other people.

For them, a lingering glance at a pretty girl on the street might feel like a violation. Additionally, partners can misinterpret the boundaries of relationships for a variety of reasons, including miscommunication or even willful ignorance.

So, while you might feel you've been clear about the kinds of flirting you are allowed to engage in, they might see things differently. That said, these are generally to be considered as outlier examples and, for most people, the above definition is a good working rule of thumb to be getting on with.

The Two Types of Cheating

So, we hear you ask, am I cheating with my social media flirtations or not? The answer is that is depends on where your partner's 'line in the sand' falls.

Cheating can be broken into too general categories: physical cheating and emotional cheating.

lady reading her boyfriend's flirty messages to someone else
Do you consider flirty texting as emotional cheating?

Physical cheating is obvious enough. Emotional cheating is slightly harder to define. Many might see any kind of flirty texting as the ultimate form of emotional cheating.

The line of reasoning that underlies this belief goes something like this: if he is not getting something physical out of it, he must be doing it for purposes of emotional connection and intimacy.

Now, while this is certainly the case for a variety of sexy text exchanges and flirtatious back-and-forths, it is not necessarily always the case. The act of flirty texting can be a casual thrill experience in the same way anonymous sex might be. In this scenario, social media flirting does not cross the physical or emotional boundary.

Remember: If crossing the latter two boundaries are what would constitute cheating for your partner, then, in this case, you would not be cheating.

It Depends on Where the Lines Are

Of course, all this depends on where your partners lines fall and where you believe your actions falls relative to those lines. In the last example, your partner's line might be crossed simply at the exchange of flirty texts.

Or it might fall far, far away from that. Who knows, maybe they don't feel like your cheating on them until your out at 3 a.m. on some country lane dogging! In that case, social media cheating is probably not something to get your conscience in a twist over.

NEXT STEP: Know Where the Lines Fall

If you are questioning whether a bit of social media flirtation is an acceptable bit of fun on the side given the parameters of your relationship, our recommendation is the try and get a better sense of where those parameters fall.

You probably have a general sense already ('Yeah, now that you mention it, she didn't seem bothered when she found her cousin on top of me but she did mention that dogging was a no-no').

However, if you are feeling guilt over some chat room naughtiness, you can get a better sense of your predicament with some probing questions. We'd recommend avoiding the direct approach of asking 'Would you mind if I flirted at Jennylove2smooch69?' and try something a little more indirect.

For instance, tell her a story about a friend who got caught texting another girl and see how she reacts.

LASTLY: Don't Forget Your Own Lines

Ultimately, you want to be living a sexual existence that is line with your own needs and desires.

elegant woman making a sexy web call with a stranger
Do you think social media contributes to a greater amount of infidelities?

Compromise is important in a relationship, but if you are finding your partners boundaries cut you off from too much of life's dirty little pleasure, it might be time to consider whether you are truly with the right person. Or just get really good at not getting caught!

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Image sources: (1) Di Studio | (2) jandruk | (3) mariesacha |Fotolia.com