With the rise of digital technology, access to whatever hearts desire has become nearly instantaneous. It allows everyone to connect, for the cost of an Internet connection, with old friends and acquaintances – anytime and from virtually anywhere. While the positives are clear to see, a darker picture is starting to take shape: the rise of so-called ‘cyber affairs’.
So, what’s behind the growth of these digital dalliances? According to author and speaker Tina Konkin, who runs a Newport Beach, California-based counseling program, Relationship Lifeline, one need to look no farther than interactions on social media or the internet.
A 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that four out of five lawyers used evidence derived from social networking sites in divorce cases. In addition, it’s estimated that one in five divorces today have a direct correlation to amorous encounters and relationships cultivated online.
“The allure of cyber affairs for many is the minimal effort needed to engage,” said Konkin. “More often than not, we’re seeing these cyber affairs stem from a reconnection with people in their past, where individuals are essentially transported back in time and start to form a romantic bond through past experiences they’ve shared.”
Another driver of digital infidelity: the casual attitude and easy access to pornography. According to a survey published in the Journal of the American Psychological Association, 86% of men are likely to click on Internet sex sites if given the opportunity. Furthermore, according to an AAML poll of 350 divorce attorneys, two-thirds reported that the Internet played a significant role in break-ups. More than half of those cases involved an excessive interest in online porn.
“The overwhelming number of pornographic websites and chat rooms have played a significant role in disrupting the exclusivity of human sexuality,” said Konkin. “The low barrier of entry allows individuals to get what they want, when they want it. It’s become Pandora’s Box.”
Although the conversation surrounding ‘cyber affairs’ may be uncomfortable for some, Konkin said that such dialogue is necessary because of the threats they pose to long-term happiness and growth. There is a need to raise awareness around the issue “to be a catalyst for those conversations and help people recognize these online encounters for what they are – affairs.”