Come on, is cyber infidelity really cheating? In her new book, Dr Eve explains, yes.

book-cover-cyber-infidelityCyber Infidelity: The New Seduction could not have been published at a more apt time, just as hackers released details of millions of users of the AshleyMadison.com dating website, destroying relationships the world over. The book was written before the hack, but interestingly, is based on real data from the dating website itself. This book provides fascinating insight into the world of online dating, particularly for those who are already in committed relationships.

‘Cheating’ or infidelity is one of the biggest dangers to a relationship, and the Internet, along with social media, is providing a new and different platform to stray. But, because this world is so relatively ‘new’, there is a lot of vagueness about what constitutes cheating, and what is simply harmless online engagement. If you’re merely chatting to a stranger besides your partner, or flirting a just little, but not having cybersex or meeting in real life, have you betrayed your relationship? Does cybersex count as infidelity? If so, what’s the difference between cyber infidelity and ‘real’ or face-to-face cheating?

Dr Marlene Wasserman, better known to South Africans as Dr Eve, was outraged when AshleyMadison.com launched in South Africa a few years ago. The dating site enables affairs and infidelity, and Wasserman felt it would encourage the spread of STIs. But when many of her patients started confessing to using the site, she decided it’s an area worth studying. Ashley Madison founder, Noel Biderman, agreed to give Wasserman unlimited access to the site’s database in order to do research. Posing as both a man and woman on the site, Wasserman began gathering data about who was using it, their reasons, and what men and women considered cheating, as opposed to ‘innocent’ online engagement. The question she’s tried to answer: why would people risk “home and hearth, heart and genitals for the hookup, FWB [friends with benefits] and NSA [no strings attached]?”

Infidelity, Wasserman explains, is about secrecy. This applies to old-fashioned, face-to-face infidelity and online infidelity. Interestingly, Dr Eve found that men and women’s attitudes about what constitutes being unfaithful largely overlapped. Most of those surveyed agreed that cyber flirting and cybersex constituted cheating.

But why go online instead of meeting someone face-to-face and having an exchange of bodily fluids? That’s because online is the new seduction. There is real time interaction with a real person. And “from the moment you log in, you become a different person. Your imagination goes wild. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like and what your financial or marital status is. In return, as you become your own fantastical hero or heroine, so does your online partner… [Online relationships are] easy, immediate, interactive, and egalitarian, which means that your age, appearance, gender, race, and religion are scarcely relevant online.”

The purpose of the book is not only to provide interesting facts and figures about cyber infidelity, but to present interesting case studies from Dr Eve’s patients, as well as Ashley Madison users. It also acts as a kind of work book for readers to examine their own online behaviour and relationships. It provides guidelines on how to navigate online conduct when you have a partner but also encourages partners to draw up their own rules governing such behaviour; to decide what is acceptable and not acceptable for them.

Listen to the podcast of my interview with Dr Eve below.

Rating: 3½ out of 5

Cyber Infidelity: The New Seduction is published by Human & Rousseau.

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