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Thursday, August 18, 2011

When Tweeting Is Cheating

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 at 7:30 AM

Just to make it short, my ex-boyfriend had an active conversation with this girl who sent him a couple of pics of her semi-naked! When I started arguing with him, he said, "Why do you make it a big deal? She's not in the country." Is that considered cheating?

There's no tried and true definition of cheating. Most would probably agree that intercourse is cheating, but even then, some people have weird rationalizations about how that might not count in certain scenarios. For instance, if you cross state lines, then it's okay. There was a teen movie about it 11 years ago, so it must be true.

Every person views infidelity differently in the context of monogamous relationships. Some people are a-okay with their partners grinding away on the dance floor or kissing other people, while others consider watching porn or simply having a close emotional connection to another person to be a sign of unfaithfulness. In extreme cases, some consider it cheating if you even think about cheating.

One thing we can all probably agree on, however, is that the Internet has made our conceptions of cheating a lot more confusing. We now have all these different channels to express our desires, fantasies, and potential betrayals, whether it's sending semi-naked pictures electronically, engaging in explicit IMs or Twitter messages, or participating in a chat room. You can sex it up in online role-playing games such as Second Life or World of Warcraft. You can be a voyeur and peruse Craigslist casual encounters ads. You can strike up a flirty correspondence with an old boyfriend or girlfriend on Facebook. You can troll dating sites to have your hotness validated, even if you never intend on meeting anyone. And on and on.

As my smart friend Tracy Clark-Flory noted during the whole Weinergate debacle, "What happens online is real, but it also isn't; it's whatever you want to believe that it is. Given that, it's incredibly easy to justify to oneself that online flirtation doesn't 'count,' that it can be categorized within the realm of porn and personal fantasy, as opposed to actual cheating and betrayal -- especially when it isn't actually consummated in person."

While I wouldn't say that what your ex did constitutes infidelity, it was inappropriate, and the fact that it upset you should have merited a conversation about boundaries. Your ex believed that because this person doesn't live in the country, it was fine to engage with her. To him, she was off-limits. As a matter of personal opinion, on a scale of one to cut-a-bitch, I would far prefer my partner to be exchanging lewd pics than exchanging bodily fluids. But such behaviors certainly do cross a line, even if it's a small one. 

While there isn't a ton of data available on the lascivious online habits of adults -- most research seems to concentrate on addiction and the sext-crazy teenagers -- a 2004 ABC News poll indicated that 54 percent of men and 72 percent of women believe that sex talk in an Internet chat room is cheating. I would imagine that public opinion hasn't changed a whole lot on the subject of e-cheating in more recent years, judging by the outcry that led Anthony Weiner to resign and enter sex rehab, even though all of his transgressions (that we know of) took place online. So, you know, the moral majority is on your side. 

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at 

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook

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