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Are Social Networks to blame for a rise in adultery?

This article appeared in the March 2011 edition of Chic Lifestyle magazine.

In my job as a divorce lawyer I have noticed the rise of a strange new phenomenon over the last couple of years. Many clients who come to me for advice now cite social networking websites as being a contributory factor in the breakdown of their relationship.

The recent surge in popularity of social networking websites like Facebook, Myspace and Second Life have brought with them the possibility to make new friends with common interests, as well as to reconnect with lost friends from school or your more recent past.adultery solicitors

But do social networking sites also encourage flirtatious behaviour, and are they really to blame for a rise in adultery?

As anyone who has joined Facebook will know, that first couple of weeks often becomes a race to add as many "friends" as possible. It is also all too easy, and often irresistibly tempting, to look up old boyfriends or maybe just that guy from college you had a crush on, but never did anything about at the time. Of course, it is human nature to wonder what happened to people you were close to in the past.

The danger starts when that late night uninhibited surfing session, fuelled by a second glass of wine, begets a "poke" or flirtatious message sent to an ex-lover or missed opportunity. One thing leads to another and you are soon exchanging emails reminiscing about the past; and the next thing you know you"re arranging to meet to catch up on old times.

It doesn"t only apply to people you already know. The remote nature of the internet provides some people with a veil of anonymity which can lead them to act in a way that they wouldn"t in a real life situation. People who are shy in person can often act much more confidently in a virtual situation, leading them to be more flirtatious and socially assertive than they otherwise would. Asking someone out over the internet feels less risky than it does face to face, as it is only your avatar that is facing possible rejection.

Of course, social networking sites don"t make anyone cheat on their partner. They do make it easy to get in contact with people, and therefore provide the opportunity to cheat to someone who is that way inclined. They also provide a much greater chance of getting caught, as they provide an electronic trail of evidence to a suspicious partner who knows where to look.

As a divorce lawyer I have seen a huge increase in recent years in people producing print outs of emails, instant messages and text messages to back up claims of their partner's infidelity.

So how many exes does your current partner have on their list of Facebook friends? And for that matter how many do you have on yours? It is worth bearing in mind next time you receive a friend request and the option to "Confirm or Ignore?" Is it someone you would be happy for your partner to know about?

Finally, spare a thought for Emma Brady, reportedly the world's first Facebook divorcee. She only found out that her husband wanted a divorce when friends started phoning her to console her on being dumped. Apparently her husband had posted on his profile, 'Neil Brady has ended his marriage to Emma Brady'. To make matters worse, someone had added the comment that her husband was "better off out of it". Ouch.

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