INFIDELITY ON THE INTERNET: Virtual Relationships and Real Betrayal
"Cybering," slang for virtual sex online, appears to be the dark secret of the Internet, and it is creating havoc in the real world of relationships. The ease with which people can find partners for sex—a quick computer search can yield hundreds of opportunities, in chat rooms or on porn sites—and the apparent safety of anonymous encounters has tempted huge numbers of people to cheat on their mates. According to mental health professionals Maheu and Subotnik (Surviving Infidelity), a large-scale study in 2000 reported that an estimated 20% of Internet users engage in online sexual activity, and two-thirds of them are married or in a committed relationship. The many cybersex practitioners given voice here demonstrate wide-ranging viewpoints about what constitutes infidelity. People cruise cyberspace for brief sex with strangers or for lengthy affairs. Some believe cybersex is a harmless fantasy, while others acknowledge the harmful consequences that discovery brings and express profound regret. Testimonies of cybering adventures solicited through a self-help Web site elucidate the different motivations that drive people to have cybersex and the obsessive-compulsive behavior that can develop among habitual users. Expressing zero tolerance for people who minimize the consequences of cyberinfidelity, the authors present a program for kicking the habit and rebuilding a damaged relationship after an online romance has been revealed. Although they allow for the possibility that in a climate of openness and honesty, extramarital cybering might be a nonthreatening, permissible form of Internet recreation, their argument that cyberinfidelity is often damaging and addictive is convincing. (Nov.)
Forecast:If cybering is as widespread as the authors suggest, the audience for this book could be sizable. But do cheaters actually purchase books on cheating? Sourcebooks apparently hopes so; the house has planned a 25,000 first printing.