Chatting on social networks like Facebook takes a serious turn when partners and spouses engage in cybersex or sexual conversations with so-called “friends” online. As social media usage hits all-time highs, many marriages are hitting all-time lows, or pursuing divorce, due to inappropriate and emotionally-charged activity on social media networks.
The use of Facebook or similar tools to locate a past girlfriend or boyfriend and begin a relationship again has been popularly coined “retro-sexing,” and the act has devastating consequences for a partner. To many, the behavior is equivalent to having an actual affair and falls into the category of cybersex.
In some cases, the suspicion that a partner is being unfaithful ends the relationship or marriage, and it’s often discovered by a partner viewing Facebook conversations. The conversations are typically with someone the partner was able to locate through social media search tools, such as from a past school, place of employment or past personal relationship. Divorce attorneys have said that Facebook is being listed more and more often as a cause for divorce, with rates in the U.K. estimated to reach as high as 20 percent of divorce cases.
In most cases of divorce linked to social media tools, the conversations went from friendly chats to cases of cybersex or strongly based in sexual content – which are often just as emotionally painful to a partner as an offline adulterous relationship.
Suspicious spouses can request the help of private investigators who specialize in Internet-based research and cybersex relationships. In some cases, the offending partner is engaging in acts of cybersex with people they’ve never met beyond the vague identities of the online world. In other cases, a partner finds a message about a spouse’s plans to end a marriage in a blunt, piercing Facebook message or status update.
Providing ammunition to would-be online cheaters are the increasing numbers of online networks targeted at matching up one adulterer with another, or allowing people to engage in activities like the U.K.-based Second Life site, where a person who is married can assume a new identity and engage in new online relationships in a game-like setting. The Second Life games can involve activities related to cybersex, including allowing one’s character to engage in sex with a prostitute or a stranger. A person can, in essence, create a false self and act outside the confines of marriage on these sites.
While inappropriate Facebook usage is increasingly an element in the breakup of a marriage, it’s often the combination of spending excessive hours engaged in social media relationships and neglecting children or work that causes couples to reach the breaking point.