[Editor’s note: Today’s post is an excerpt from the book Open: What Happens When You Get Honest, Get Real, and Get Accountable by Craig Gross with Adam Palmer]
Social media has opened up the world in many beneficial ways, but it also has removed barriers between us and our baser impulses. Now, if we’re not feeling especially loved at home, then unconditional acceptance is only a chat window away.
I’m talking about cheating.
More and more people are turning to social media sites like Facebook—especially Facebook—to pursue relationships outside the one they’re in. From the casual fling to the high school hookup to torrid confessions of love in a Facebook message, people are using the connectivity of social sites to indulge their lusts and passions. In fact, the word Facebook is now cited in one out of every three divorces.
Social media users are hiding their online lives.
I’ve seen story after story after story of jilted boyfriends or disillusioned wives who have discovered that the person they love has been carrying on a secret relationship through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and plenty of other social media hubs, including some dating sites. In fact, our ministry now runs a website called FacebookCheating.com to help tell those stories as cautionary tales. With each one I read, I see that the discovery of an affair wrecks the discoverer emotionally, and often the person who has been cheating expresses an exhausted relief that he or she has been found out.
There are hundreds of stories on that site, and almost all of them feature the same sort of pattern: a spouse or significant other signs up for Facebook, often with the help of their committed partner, and things go fine for a little while before suddenly the spouse or significant other begins acting suspicious and starts hiding something. Maybe an old high school flame has sent a friend request, or maybe the new Facebook user is the one sending the request. The secrecy and hiding continue until the cheated-on spouse or significant other gets wise and does some detective work to uncover the truth of cheating.
In one of the stories on FacebookCheating.com, the cheating spouse simply began playing Words with Friends with random strangers and became so secretive that it aroused her husband’s suspicions. Months later he found out she’d been meeting one of her Words with Friends partners for sex once a month, and she soon moved out to live with him.
So much hiding. So much deceit and suspicion.
Hiding your true behavior is no way to live (Tweet This!). Cheating is reprehensible, and if you’re struggling with it, you need to start seeing a professional counselor to get at the root causes of why. But if you’re even struggling with thoughts of cheating, or if you have an ulterior motive for sending that friend request to the attractive person from your past, you don’t need to manage those thoughts and feelings on your own.
By getting accountable, you’re discussing these things in the open with someone you trust, often discovering patterns or behaviors you didn’t even know were there. What a joy to be able to let go of some of these load-bearing practices. We often don’t deal with any of this stuff in our lives until there’s been an affair or some transgression, but accountability gives us a platform not just to prevent the behavior or deal with the impulses for that behavior but to examine why we feel the way we do. To uncover why we might be seeking out other partners.
In this way, accountability can be preventative and squash potential missteps (or worse) right away. It can be a proactive means of living out in the open instead of a reactive life of secrets and hiding.