Virtual Flirting Responsible for 20% of Divorces, Law Firm Argues

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The worldwide spread of social media has distinct pros and cons, and increased communication between divergent groups is most often labeled as a major benefit. Now one law firm reports that too MUCH communication – often flirtatious communiques between married people and old flames – is causing a spike in divorce petitions.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at some great analysis on the subject and asks whether we're entering into a brave new world where privacy just ain't what they used to be.

Facebook: Defriended, Divorced

According to a great write-up by Facebook watchdog site AllFacebook, a spouse's discovery of steamy Facebook messages is rapidly becoming a major reason for divorce petitions, with social networking mentioned by name almost 20% of the time.

According to Divorce Online, a professional resource for divorce information worldwide, inappropriate use of social media and virtual worlds as grounds for divorce is rapidly becoming commonplace.

From the article:

The most common reason seemed to be people having inappropriate sexual
chats with people they were not supposed to.” While I’m not sure how
people get caught having inappropriate private chats with others, the
technical details were not described by the law firm.

Even the U.K. Telegraph finds the concept of a Facebook-fueled divorce shocking, if their recent article on the subject is any indication. There seems to be an emergent worry that social networking websites depersonalize the act of a breakup, leading some unfortunate partners to find out about their divorce via Facebook.

Among the unfortunate Facebook status updates The Telegraph profiles in their sobering piece:

One 35-year-old woman even discovered her husband was divorcing her via
Facebook.


Emma Brady was distraught to read that her marriage was
over when he updated his status on the site to read: "Neil Brady has
ended his marriage to Emma Brady."

As harsh as it may seem, finding out you're divorced via Facebook isn't very common. What's much more likely, Pixels and Policy finds, is a virtual world tryst serving as the catalyst for relationship troubles.

That's because previously accepted barriers between conduct in the virtual and real worlds are breaking down as millions of people turn to the Metaverse and social networking for everything from catching up with old friends to conducting virtual business meetings.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that social media is becoming a powerful transformative experience – both good and bad – for individuals and couples. Semi-anonymous online interaction brings with it the opportunity for mostly risk-free flirting, and several high profile stories over the years profiled relationships and marriages broken up over virtual trysts in Second Life.

Among the reasons for the Second Life-driven divorce:

Taylor told the Western Morning News she had subsequently hired an
online private detective to track his activities: "He never did
anything in real life, but I had my suspicions about what he was doing
in Second Life.

This gets at the heart of a question Pixels and Policy asked a month ago: Should we judge the users of social media and virtual worlds based on how they act in-world? Is in-world flirting or sexual activity a reflection of the user?

Whether or not we should, millions of people are coming to view social media and online gaming not as a world apart from reality, but as an extension of it. As a result, virtual infidelity can be a relationship deal-breaker. Is this what the pioneering developers of social media and virtual interaction intended when they set out?

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