Facebook Infidelity: The Virtual Cheat

Mazeltov, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, on going public, and finally getting hitched. No more single guy with a hoodie and a billion bucks to spare. You’ve had a big week — the kind that demanded a suit and tie.  If I were your Mama — I would be so proud. But here’s what’s going down privately on your site — the dividends that you don’t see.

Now that you too are among The Marrieds, perhaps you will take a closer look.

For Singletons, Facebook is a fabulous orgy of possibility. It takes the “desperately seeking …” out of the equation. It is the ideal virtual bar to meet ‘n’ greet without the pressure. It is also a fantastic professional networking venue for those seeking career-oriented contacts. I use it all the time. In fact, for bloggers, it is the ideal means to get the word Out There. You figure at the very least, your friends and family are reading you.

So dude, thanks for setting me up.

My problem (and now yours) is with those who are married, who are using Facebook to fill a “void” in the relationship. Facebook has become the New Age Motel No-Tell, a playground for those seeking a kosher way out of a stale relationship, a boring job, endless to do-lists, overly-demanding children – without actually having to go anywhere. FB has become an accepted time traveler to transport you back to another place in your history, when you were young and carefree, the possibilities limitless. The site is a portal to the past, bringing you to the doorstep of those who once knew the “real” you – the you that you wish you could still be. But damn, life just got in the way.

FB provides an acceptable means to investigate what ever happened to that college boyfriend, that grammar school crush, that fraternity-house fling, that bitch from Middle School. It’s a way of revisiting your past from a grownup’s vantage point. It satisfies that feeling of, if I only knew back in high school what I know now, oh how different it (I) could have been …

Join Facebook — here’s the apple, take a bite, and off to high school you go…

And therein lies the problem. Mark, now that you’ve got a ring around your finger — listen up.

In the past few months I’ve heard of no less than six Facebook infidelities. Married friends, or married friends of friends, who have reconnected with someone from his/her past, and the connection has taken on an intimate covert life of its own. It is Virtual Cheating sans the actual cheat, but no less dangerous.

I define Facebook Infidelity (FI) as: an intimate and secretive connection with someone other than your spouse, in which your spouse has no idea how “deep” that relationship has become.

Sex is not necessarily involved, rather emotions, thoughts — those things you no longer discuss with your spouse because he (to my male readers: feel free to substitute she) simply does not understand the real you anymore, or worse, does not make the time.

Like any new relationship, FI starts off innocent. I wonder what happened to …”  And with one finger on the search button — presto, there he is, living in the ‘burbs with three kids, and lookin’ good. Actually, way better than you remembered in high school, and definitely hotter than your husband, with whom you’ve been together so long, that lately, he and the furniture are interchangeable.

Hell yeah, you secretly think, I will DEFINITELY Accept Your Friendship …

The surface stuff is subsequently exchanged: This is what I’ve been doing for 20 years, and wow, you traveled to Africa? Me, I never get past Boca. You look great. You too. What’s your wife like? I know what you mean. And your husband? Well, all men can be like that. I still have this picture of us from high school. OMG, look at my hair. I loved your hair … Do you remember that night when your parents walked in…

And then FI is off and running.

On paper, I am probably an ideal Facebook candidate: a writer, lots of “friends” from the past – from camp, high school, college, study abroad program, graduate school, having lived as a journalist in a foreign country, not to mention that I was a serial dater in my twenties, trying to find Mr. Right amid the plethora of Wrongs. There are lots of “friends” I could dig up now, should I choose.

But why tempt?

I was also a child of divorce, an adult divorcee, a single mom, and now as many of you know from reading my site, very happily remarried – but not without issues. I know, sadly from too much experience, exactly what can tear apart a marriage, or at least fray the edges. And let me tell you, by digging up past relationships and rekindling them, there is nothing in it that could possibly make your spouse or partner feel good, or enhance your marriage in any way.

Au contraire. Facebook relationships with a past love who is now just a “friend” inevitably leads to arguments, and suspicion … what is she saying to him that she can’t say to me?

I joined Facebook last year. I know, I was probably the last person in America. I held off, on principle. But once my eldest daughter got Facebook (and now my other two daughters do too), and I knew I had to jump in. Yes, I became a Mommy-cum-CIA Operative. Who are they talking to? What’s on their wall? Any weirdos or pedophiles lurking?  If so, they would have to deal with me. My Facebook prowling was not pretty (I was not alone, by the way. My husband was an excellent agent). I kind of felt like I was opening a diary that wasn’t mine. But with all the dregs out there — there was no way  I would let creeps or horny boys latch onto my kids.

If my girls were on Facebook, I had to be in the game, despite my reservations. I mean who had time to connect with an entire lifetime of people, asking for friendship requests, when I barely have a minute to call those friends I actually care about? And secondly, I didn’t want to deal with bringing old boyfriends to the surface, and my husband’s old girlfriends into the life we created together.

But because of my kids, I threw in the towel. So did he.

My husband and I decided to make our Facebook entrance a fun and bonding experience, by reconnecting with old “friends” jointly. Some of you may be rolling your eyes, and I totally get it. But we decided if we did it together, it would remove the sting of hearing about past lovers, or wondering if he or I was connecting with someone who would “bother” us (you know, the “oh her” girl). So we sat down and searched everyone in our past that we’ve ever wondered about together. It was a five-hour ordeal. My kids kept coming in the room and saying, You guys are so weird. But we laughed and laughed – oh my God look at her! Those boobs are so fake! Her, he’d say, look at him! I cannot believe you went out with that guy — he wears True Religion jeans.

Our joint research removed the resentment, the sneakiness from facebooking. Yes, we each had a past. Yes, there were others. Some good-looking, some great-looking, and some were ehhh. But it was hilarious. At  the end of our exhaustive “search,” we looked at each other and said: Look where we’ve been. So glad to have found you.

In fact, our friends tease us that we have a Facebook account together – and nobody does that. (If you’re curious, have a look:  Lisa David Barr.)

What about trust, they say? Oh, screw trust, I say back.

Our joint account keeps us both aware of who is friending, who is contacting, and everything is above board – and none of it affects our marriage, because a flame from the past can see that ours is a joint account, and any ride down Memory Lane, becomes a threesome.

Here’s how I see it: A recent nationwide poll revealed that nearly 80 percent of couples (polled) would rather be with their cell phone than with their spouses, if they had to choose. I’m just saying… something is definitely wrong with this marital picture of today’s society.

Here’s my take (and you can take it or leave it): I believe it is really okay for you to tell your spouse/partner: Babe, I’m not cool with you chatting up your grammar school crush, even if it is on Facebook, where EVERYONE is connecting. Hon, let’s turn off the iPhone during dinner and enjoy family time without the orchestra of ring tones. Sweetie, let’s face each other in real time, mano y mano, and connect, without our so-called  583 “friends” watching our every posted move.

Mark — yes, it’s me again — don’t get sensitive. Love your concept. It’s exceptional. It’s money. But too much access has its price. Face-booking takes us away from the very real face-looking — at the guy lying in your bed, instead of “searching” for the guy roaming in your head.

Facebook, if not careful, can be Emotional Infidelity in drag. It enables us to spy on a past love, his family, his likes, his trips, his funny moments, and his friends — without him even knowing how often you happen to be there, in his world.

Mark — first came the IPO, then came Marriage, next (and not to be pushy) comes Baby in the Facebook Carriage. You will one day want to teach your kids (if they ever look up from their cell phones) not to text I luv u (send) but to actually say I love you (kiss, touch, hug). In other words, you too, will want to give your offspring something three-dimensional to hold onto.

You, with your brilliant social networking, have given the world an unparalleled ability to search out everyone and their mothers. You’ve connected all of us. But in reality, too much of anything has its downside: Facebook has disconnected marriages, friendships, and made a lot of teens depressed (hey guys, check out the party you were NOT invited to).

Here’s my wedding gift to you, a recipe for happiness, Young Mogul:  Turn off the computer, and ACCEPT this. Give your bride what she really needs: You.  

– LB

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