Getting cheated on is one of the most painful, non-physical experiences you can put someone through. The betrayal of trust, the late nights wondering ‘what could I have done different’, the self-blame, the trust issues that last for years, there is far more to cheating than just having romantic or sexual relations with someone other than your monogamous partner. It leaves a scar that doesn’t always heal with time. If you have ever been cheated on, you know just how painful it is. If a close friend of yours has ever been cheated on, you know just how mad you felt when you found out. The cheater is considered scum. So why does social media like to encourage cheating, treat it as humorous, and even normalize it?
The best examples of cheating culture on social media tend to be found on Twitter, which for a lot of the younger generation is their main social media account where they know their family isn’t watching. The humor can be cruder, the jokes more offensive, and they can talk freely about relationships, but it tends to be the accounts made just for humor that perpetrate this. Why? Enough people find it funny enough that they would retweet it, which is all those accounts want. When people find something funny instead of disgusting, it becomes normalized and people do not take it as seriously. The real question is: why do the retweeters find it funny?
But not everyone thinks cheating is okay on social media. Some people have developed this hyper vigilance for it where they always think their partner could be cheating on them and will do whatever it takes to either discover it early, stop it before it progresses to ‘real’ cheating, or make sure their partner is too afraid to even think about it. They won’t let their partners talk to someone of their attracted gender, they check their partner’s phone whenever they leave the room, they send angry messages to anyone on social media who makes ‘suspicious’ comments on their selfies.
Coincidentally, this hyper vigilance is almost definitely a direct result of the normalization of cheating culture. People are naturally afraid of getting cheated on, and the constant social media presence of cheating being normal gets bombarded on them all the time, which results in paranoia. My favorite example of this was listening to my friend get yelled at on the phone for an hour by her boyfriend about some guy being her Snapchat best friend while at Pearl Harbor.
So many online memes about things you ‘side chick’ does, advertisements for applications that let you hack into your partner’s phone to view their texts, screenshots of jealous (crazy) girlfriends refusing to talk to their partners because they liked some girl’s Instagram selfie. Call me crazy, but I don’t find cheating to be funny. Luckily, a lot of people seem to agree, judging from the replies to some of the more popular tweets in my examples. But the question still remains: why did it become a popular tweet in the first place? If everyone agreed that cheating is bad and not funny, or that unhealthy relationships are not ‘goals’, then why did it get so many retweets? If the original poster knew that cheating was not a joke, then why did they post an advertisement for how to hack into your partner’s Snapchat to see their best friends list?
Cheating culture in my mind is a very large part of popular culture. Romantic and sexual relationships are essential to the continuation of humankind, and once committed monogamous relationships became the norm, cheating did too. This isn’t to say that cheating culture is a new thing, just that social media allows for a greater audience to be exposed to it in different ways. With social media allowing more and more ways for people to connect, there are also more ways to cheat. If cheating is treated as a disgusting choice that no one should ever make, the status quo of committed monogamous relationships remain that way. But when cheating is normalized, committed relationships become rocky, people become paranoid, and monogamy becomes threatened. Cheating culture throws popular culture and the status quo out of whack.