If you read a lot of the articles like this one, though you’ll begin to think the answer is simple.
And of course the statistics are looking quite amazing with 20% of divorce cases in the US now involving Facebook in one way or another, Twitter in 5% and other social media in 14%. But the thing is, this doesn’t really deal with the question in hand.
For people to contravene societal norms, two things need to be in place:
Opportunity + Intent
A first glance would say that the internet is opportunity. Going back to chat rooms, or Friends Reunited and moving up to Facebook, Twitter etc. there is clearly greater opportunity for indulging in bad behaviour if one wants to. You can reconnect with old flames or acquaintances in a way that was never previously possible. “I wonder what happened to xxxx” becomes not a philosophical question, but an easy research topic.
But the thing that really interests me is the intent. Divorce rates have been increasing and adultery remains the main reason that relationships end. So there is a trend there anyway. There will be crossover between online and offline too. Where the internet is just a replacement for the hushed phone calls. But looking at the statistics there is also a whole load of people doing stuff that they wouldn’t normally do. The intent paradigm has shifted.
Something in the human brain seems to say, “this isn’t real” or perhaps even “this doesn’t matter”. Of course looked from the flip side, the “deceived” partner would probably argue that the feelings of betrayal, loss of trust etc. are absolutely as real. So what’s going on? And where does it stop? As social media and the internet develops as the mobile internet becomes quicker and faster and easier and as usage becomes second nature are we going to see societal views change and a new norm of acceptability become defined? Or are we sitting on an emotional time bomb that will severely impact our children, their children and the essence of social fabric as we know it?