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Sex + Relationships

The Digital World Of Cheating: Facebook, Gchat, Texting, Sexting

Here’s a situation we can all relate to: you and your friends are out on the town for the night and a guy approaches you. You’re flirting and chatting and you even end the night with a little bit of making-out-on-the-dance-floor action. You’re totally smitten with this guy.

Later that week as you’re walking to class (and thinking about him), you receive an alert on your iPhone or Blackberry from Facebook: the guy from last weekend wants to be friends.

It’s an exciting, yet, potentially dangerous exchange.

At first, it’s how you two begin to communicate.  Every time you heard that bing-sound from Facebook chat you’d instantly hope it was him — and it usually was!

But fast forward the seven months you’ve been dating and here’s your daily routine:

You wake up, check your e-mail, eat a banana, read Her Campus, check your Facebook and read on your newsfeed that Suzie Shmoo wrote on your boyfriend’s wall at 10:32 p.m. last night.

“Suzie Shmoo. Who’s Suzie Shmoo?” You think to yourself.

Your curiosity eats away at you, and after he leaves himself signed into Facebook on your computer, you snoop. And there’s an entire message thread between your boyfriend and Suzie Shmoo.

“I’m really excited to watch The Social Network with you this Thursday night,” she wrote in the Facebook thread. “Do you like red wine or white wine better?”

You’re infuriated! He just told you tonight that he was going to a concert with his best friend Johnny on Thursday night, so you confront him. He’s angry you snooped. You’re angry he lied to you and has plans with Suzie Shmoo.

And you two break up.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. And if this or a similar situation hasn’t happened to you personally, Her Campus is here to help you if it ever does— or you can just read on to justify your own past snoop-like behavior.

We’ve heard the stories of over 65 collegiettes™ and talked to a relationship expert to find out if it’s okay to go through your boyfriend’s digital world, how to confront him about it if you don’t like what you see, and how to recognize whether or not he’s cheating.  We also talked to college guys about their thoughts on digital cheating.
Read on!

A Snooper’s Tale

Snooping. It’s controversial and raises many questions. Are you being dishonest by going through his e-mail without him knowing? Does that make you just as “bad” of a person as he is if he has been doing something behind your back? Shouldn’t there be privacy in a relationship? I say this because I’ve been a snooper who has had these exact same thoughts.

There were a couple of times in a past relationship when I went through my boy’s phone and Facebook. Why? I was curious and in our long-distance relationship I couldn’t help but feel insecure at times.  Did I like what I saw? I guess. There was no Suzie Shmoo-business going on, but he was texting a girl he used to hook-up with before we started dating.

While it was “harmless,” it bothered me that he was texting her behind my back. It also bothered him that I went through his phone without him knowing.

51 out of the 65 surveyed collegiettes™ admitted that at one time or another they’ve snooped. The most common snoop?  Going through his cell phone.  The second? Facebook.

Were these collegiettes™ happy with what they found? 20 said “yes” and 32 said “no.”

Here are their tales: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

“Actually, at the time I suspected he was cheating and confronted him about it. He let me go through everything on his Facebook, granted he probably deleted things, but it ended up not being that big of a deal in the end.” — Sarah*, sophomore, Arizona State University

“I chose to tell him [that I snooped] because it did kind of bother me. It was harmless, but he spends a bit too much time on his on-line gaming and that’s what’s irritating. I wanted to see what he was doing that was taking so much of his time.” — Andrea*, senior, Western Michigan University graduate

“He was in the room with me at the time and when I did look around we merely laughed at all the posts as he told me about each one,” — Mary*, junior, Michigan State University


The Bad & The Ugly

“I found him cheating on me. I admitted that I felt awful for having snooped, but it was mounting suspicion that led me to do so and I’m glad I did because it opened a whole can of worms.” — Katie, junior, Boston College

“When I felt the urge to snoop through my ex’s Facebook, that should have been a red flag right there. If a girl feels the need to snoop, the relationship is already in trouble. I snooped and found that my ex was not only flirting with other girls, but also cheating on me with them. I broke up with him but never told him how I found out about the cheating. I guess I didn’t feel like I owed him anything after that.” — Chrissy*, junior, Penn State University
“His e-mails were dirty messages back and forth with two different girls, both of which I knew, and hotel receipts for the nights I couldn’t get a hold of him,” — Alex*, senior, Florida State University

“I didn’t want him to get mad or think I was a creep [for snooping]. I never told him, but it turns out I had a good reason for snooping and he completely deserved it.” — Brittany*, junior, Iowa State University

“I found out my ex-boyfriend was cheating on me when he became Facebook friends with his crazy ex. I then got really paranoid and told him I was worried. He gave me the passwords to all his online stuff to reassure me. I hated being one of those girls. But then after he removed his ex as a friend — and they became friends again on Facebook!  I got too paranoid and checked his messages on Facebook. I found a love letter and a sex letter between him and his ex, written hours after I’d left his house after a break from school (we were in a long distance relationship). Needless to say I was horrified and we broke up immediately. I don’t ever want to be in a position again where I suspect someone is cheating on me and have to have things like their passwords to pacify me. Even if he hadn’t been also hooking up with her (the first love letter implied they weren’t hooking up but he wanted to be) I would consider it cheating that a guy is sitting down and writing a love Facebook message to another girl.” — Jessica*, senior, Duke University

So, is it okay to snoop?

We are left with several stories that begin with a similar motive but end in two different ways. For the bad and the ugly stories, if it weren’t for technology these girls may have never known their boyfriend was a cheater. It’s a risk you take when you snoop, but according to Dr. Carole Lieberman, author of Bad Girls: Why We Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets, snooping is a forgivable sin.

“These days, when cheating is so prevalent and technology is so tempting, snooping is a forgivable crime,” Lieberman says. “If a guy doesn’t want his girlfriend to find out what he’s been doing wrong, he shouldn’t put the evidence on the Internet.”

But Lieberman also advises that women need to be careful not to overreact. Since you’ve looked through his digital world without his knowing, it’s important to hear him out first before making accusations.

“Some of these texts, e-mails, Facebook photos, etcetera are not as incriminating as they might seem. You need to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and a chance to explain,” she says. “On the other hand, if you confront your guy and he gets mad at you for snooping, instead of trying to allay your fears, this is likely the rants of a guilty man trying to turn the tables on you.” 

How To Confront Your Man After Snooping

It’s best to discuss your suspicious findings with him first before you start making accusations. Unless it’s completely obvious that he’s been cheating on you, you should give him the benefit of the doubt and listen to him.

Dr. Lieberman says:

  • Ask him calmly.  Even though you might be feeling extremely upset, take a few breaths and ask in an understanding tone. Dr. Lieberman says after doing something “sweet” for him, something as simple as a compliment, look at him sheepishly and say:
  • “I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this, but I came across something that I don’t understand. I really care about you, so I don’t want to misinterpret it, but it has me a little confused. Could you explain what this means?”
  • Don’t wait.  The more you jump to conclusions and create stories in your head, the more likely his response to the situation will be defensive. Plus, why would you want to live with all that built-up stress and anxiety?
  • “If you come at him with guns blazing, he’ll just say something impulsively to protect himself because he’s scared. But, if you hold back and give him a chance to explain, he might be able to provide a rational explanation,” Lieberman said.
  • Listen to his side.  If he’s being honest with you he will own up to it and offer an explanation.


If there’s no evidence of a physical relationship, is he still cheating?

Even if you didn’t find dirty e-mails and receipts of hotel rooms, that doesn’t mean it’s not cheating. There are two forms of cheating: physical and emotional.

“Cheating is not just having sexual intercourse with a person who is not your partner in, what is supposedly, an exclusive relationship,” Lieberman says.

“It can include emotional cheating, which is having fantasies of wanting to be with someone else or flirting with someone else in the hopes that they will begin to flirt with you so that you can claim that it was their fault.  Even engaging in sexual activities that don’t include intercourse can be considered cheating.”

In the survey, 58 percent of collegiettes™ said if their significant other was texting/Facebooking someone else secretively, they would consider it to be cheating.

And Dr. Lieberman agreed.

“If your significant partner is ‘secretively’ texting, Facebooking, or doing anything with a woman who they have some sexual interest in, it is cheating. The key word is ‘secretively’ because this implies a betrayal of trust, which is a form of cheating, even if they have never met in person,” she said.

One collegiette™ said she’s been on the other side of digital cheating, as in, the other woman.

“I was the girl who a guy was constantly texting even though he had a girlfriend,” said *Catherine, a junior at Depaul University. “He never told her about it. It’s emotional cheating. And it may or may not turn physical. In my case with this guy, it didn’t ever turn physical, but his girlfriend and a lot of other people thought we did more than talk. He would text me flirtatious things and he told me on several occasions that he could see us dating, and this was when he still had a girlfriend. Most of this happened via text message, but we’d meet up and talk in person sometimes too.”

A Guy’s Perspective

But according to real-life college men, rather than snooping they suggest that you talk to your boy about your mounting suspicions first.

“If there’s something you want to know, you should just come out and ask it. Snooping around will only cause more suspicion from whoever you’re snooping on. If they’re hiding something it will come out anyways,” said Brad*, a recently graduated senior at Iowa State University.

But when asked if he would feel betrayed or hurt if his girlfriend snooped around his digital world, he said no.
“I don’t really have anything to hide in there, so it’s not that. It just makes me feel like she’s got questions she’s just not asking,” Brad* said.

Another college guy, Dereck* at Cornell University, also said he would advise not to snoop.

“I would suggest not to snoop because it will just create unnecessary problems in your relationship,” he said. “However, if you have one-hundred percent proof of cheating then maybe it would be okay.”
A Hopeful Future

Even though 65 percent of the surveyed collegiettes™ admitted to snooping, the remaining percent assured us that when you’re in the right relationship, the act of snooping will be out of the question.

“With my current boyfriend of almost three years, I’ve never felt the need to snoop through his Facebook, e-mail or phone. When he leaves his Facebook logged in at my place, I automatically just log him out. With my ex, I wouldn’t have been able to help myself. With my current boyfriend, I trust him completely and know that he has nothing to hide,” said Chrissy at Penn State University.
What it all comes down to is the line you and your significant other draw between what is and what is not acceptable. What most collegiettes™ and Dr. Lieberman agreed on though is that if he’s hiding something from you, it should be something to be concerned about. And if you have a feeling that you need to snoop, that too, should be a red flag in your relationship.

What do you think, collegiettes™? Share your snooping stories below.
Dr. Carole Lieberman, author of Bad Girls: Why We Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets. 
Anonymous college students

Nicole is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and Spanish. A native of the Chicago suburbs, she is an editor for the metro section at the Daily Iowan and writes Monday night recaps of her favorite TV show (and guilty pleasure) 'Gossip Girl' on Hollywoodlife.com. She spent this last summer in New York City interning at Hollywoodlife.com and a New York-based lifestyle and travel magazine, the Resident. She's exclusively interviewed several celebrities such as Bethenny Frankel, Margaret Cho, Joel Madden & Cheryl Burke. After graduation Nicole plans on returning to NYC and pursuing her career in journalism. In her free time she enjoys doing yoga, reading, and spending time with family and friends. 
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