Cheating through Twitter? Photo Credit: Joshua Hoehne via Unsplash

The digital age of “soft cheating”

Is social media dictating our relationship problems?

Today, in the digital age, social media platforms seem to be taking over our lives. They are our main form of communication, sharing information, and creating content. But is this starting to get in the way of our face-to-face relationships with loved ones?

Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are just some of the social networks that have made it

especially easy to interact with other internet users. Social media allows us to engage with our loved ones with very little effort, especially our romantic partners. This increased access to communication, and engagement with others, definitely has its benefits, but can also wreak havoc in relationships when users see exactly what their partners decide to interact with and share online. This is something that has sparked great debate among TikTok users, with some declaring certain cases of liked posts to be “soft cheating”. The phenomenon has even been described as an “epidemic” by some users. But is following or liking other people’s posts, who are deemed a “threat” to your relationship, cheating?

Cheating is subjective and contextual, and completely down to specific circumstances. Many would argue that this simply is cheating. Firstly, it’s important to understand and define what cheating is. Terms such as “soft cheating”, “cyber infidelity”, and “micro-cheating” refer to less obvious means of cheating that are not traditionally thought of as infidelity but are ultimately dishonest and secretive. This includes actions that cross a partner’s boundaries, for example flirting – even when the guilty party has no intention of straying outside of the relationship. On social media, this could include “liking” or “following” overly-sexualised posts of celebrities or social media influencers, ex-partners, or even people neither of you know.

These examples may seem small and insignificant, but when viral TikToks blow up about how “unacceptable” these actions are, it’s natural that those in couples may begin to question their partner’s actions. 

Not only does social media allow for “cyber infidelity” and “micro-cheating” to take place, but also perhaps makes it easier to happen. “Cyber infidelity” is when internet users engage in online messages and forums in order to access explicit content. It’s due to the nature of scrolling and consuming vast amounts of content available at once that enables these actions. Perhaps it is the subtlety that makes this form of “cheating” more straightforward to get away with. Hiding things on our phones is becoming increasingly easier, and therefore interacting with content that our significant other doesn’t condone is easier to deny or simply dismiss.

Liking an Instagram post of someone that your partner deems a threat is an interaction that could create jealousy within your relationship. It’s almost natural for them to interpret that as having something between you and the other person, even if it’s genuinely meaningless. This stems from the uncertainty that arises from the issues of social comparison that many experience when using social media. This could be a comparison between themself and your ex, due to seeing digital remnants of former relationships. This may ultimately result in them questioning the stability of the relationship. Often, cheating might begin with these small, trivial acts. These minor, inconsequential actions may create opportunities for something deeper and more significant to emerge, and breaking this habit is so important. Overall, this “epidemic” of soft cheating blurs the lines. Maybe liking certain social media posts is cheating, or maybe it isn’t. But if it is crossing your partner’s boundaries, then that disrespect is almost as bad as cheating.

Take a look at it from their perspective: ask yourself if your actions could potentially harm your partner, or be detrimental to your relationship. Or how you would feel if the roles were reversed. In order to define whether “soft cheating” on social media is a problem within our relationships, it is down to us to communicate with our partners. Establishing clear boundaries in relationships will look different for everyone. It’s time to put social media in its place and prioritise our relationships with loved ones. It’s imperative to establish clear boundaries and increase communication with our partners in order to be fully present, and whether that means taking regular breaks from social media or changing the content we look at online, then we need to commit to it.

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