One of the worst things that a relationship can experience is when one partner cheats on the other. The hurt and betrayal that occurs when someone cheats can be very difficult to get past, even for the most committed couples. And these days cheating can happen in many ways - it’s not all covert liaisons in seedy hotel rooms. Social media has changed the landscape for cheaters in today’s environment and there are more creative and secretive ways to go about it, including cheating through Instagram.
Instagram is one of the many platforms that have made stepping out on your partner easier, and cheating through Instagram has become increasingly common. Instagram is the most heavily used social platform for people under 30 and has over 400 million active users per month. It’s reach is massive. But just how do people cheat with Instagram and how would you know?
How Instagram Makes Cheating Possible
Before we look at how people use Instagram to cheat, we should make sure we all know what cheating can look like these days. Cheating is really anything that breaks the trust you have with, and commitment you have to, your partner. If it’s something you feel you have to hide, even if it’s just a message exchange, it probably falls into the cheating category.
Cyber-cheating, micro-cheating and online emotional affairs have become increasingly common. This means that cheating often takes on forms other than the physical affair that we typically think about. Of course those still happen, and the online and emotional forms of cheating can often lead to the physical as well.
Social media has also made it incredibly easy to find people and connect with them. In fact, it’s a lot easier to track someone down now than it used to be. Anyone whose name you know can be looked up online and, if they have a social media account, there they are. The cute girl from work, or the hot guy from the gym - with a few keystrokes you can find their social profile, see their pictures, know their hobbies, and potentially many other private facts. This type of cyber-stalking is very common, and most people doing it will tell you it’s completely innocent – they were just curious. But we all know they saying the “curiosity killed the cat,” and even someone who has no intention of cheating can slide down that slippery slope very quickly.
Dr. Kurt counsels couples dealing with cheating weekly. For many of them social media has played a role. When asked about social media, and Instagram in particular, as a factor in cheating he had this to say,
A very common way people begin cheating through Instagram is by seeking out old love interests. 'I wonder if Julie got married?' 'What ever happened to that cute guy I worked with at McDonalds?' Reconnecting with someone from your past can be one of the biggest ways to put yourself at risk of getting into an inappropriate relationship online. I'm counseling a man who likes to post pictures of himself just to see what kind of a reaction he can get. Even though everyone on Instagram has this motivation to some degree, his behavior is driven by a deep need to feel attractive and wanted, and occurs mostly when he is lonely or feeling down. His pics are suggestive and often outright sexual. They're also primarily intended to elicit a response from women he already knows. The visual element of Instagram, as well as other social media, that allows communication to occur without words can easily be a dangerous trap for users - both for those with unhealthy and hidden motives, as well as the unsuspecting and unknowing.”
So where cheating once had to start rather deliberately – “can I have your phone number?” or “do you want to meet for a drink?” or even just via the proximity of working together and opportunity, people can now begin to engage with other people in much more covert and seemingly innocent ways. Easily.
Instagram is particularly well suited for social media cheating. Although it’s primarily a photo-sharing site, it’s become a hotbed for flirting and covert connections. The direct message (DM) feature means that once you have found someone you want to connect with it’s easy contact them. Between the posting of provocative pictures in order to gain exposure and likes, otherwise known as thirst trapping, and the ability to DM people to have private conversations, initiating an affair via social media is incredibly easy.
What Are The Signs Of Instagram Cheating?
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone today who doesn’t have a smart phone. If they have it, they’re using it – a lot. Chances are better than not that they also have a social media presence. So recognizing the signs of cheating using social media, especially cheating through Instagram can be tricky.
While there is no hard and fast formula for detecting cheating with Instagram there are, however, certain behaviors that can tell you something might be going on. If you see your partner behaving in any of the following ways consider it to be a red flag.
- Obsessive connection to their phone. Most of us are far more connected to our devices than we should be. But if you notice an uptick in your partner’s screen time and their inability to be far from their phone without becoming anxious, there could be something happening.
- Constant typing or messaging. Texting and emailing with a mobile device is pretty normal these days. But changes to that behavior, like late night messaging, stepping outside to read messages, or urgency in responding to messages could be indicative of an inappropriate online relationship.
- Seeming amused or overly intrigued by what they’re reading. If your spouse has started to find whatever they’re seeing on their screen amusing or captivating, and they don’t want to share the laughter, you have cause to be concerned.
- Secretive behavior. One of the biggest tells for anyone having an affair is secretive behavior. This could be seeming overly protective of their phone or computer, spending a great deal of time behind a locked door, becoming less talkative and distant, or any other distinct change in behavior that can’t be explained.
- Leaving suddenly to “take a call,” or “run an errand.” Unless your spouse is on call or you are genuinely out of milk and it can’t wait, a sudden urgency to return messages, calls, or run errands, especially at odd times could mean that he or she is looking for a private space to engage with someone. Even if it’s cheating with something like Instagram, people often seek privacy so that they can interact without distraction.
- A new interest in selfies and posting. Maybe this is a normal behavior and means nothing. But if your partner is suddenly looking for the best light, downloading Facetune, and posting pictures of themselves routinely, it could be in an effort to impress someone and communicate through their Instagram pictures or DM feature.
Any of these behaviors could mean that your partner is flirting on social media or engaged in an emotional affair – or they could be nothing.
Could You Be Cheating Through Instagram (Or Social Media)?
Sounds like a silly question, right? If you were cheating you’d know it. Yes and no. If you are deliberately and secretly meeting someone other than your partner for the purposes of having sex – yes, you’re cheating. Or, if you’re exchanging romantic or sexual messages with someone other than your partner then yes, you’re cheating. But there are many behaviors that cross the line even though they may start innocently or seem benign. Ask yourself these questions.
- Do you follow people or like posts of people you barely know just because they are attractive?
- Are you direct messaging someone in a way your partner or spouse would be bothered by?
- Do you have profiles on social media accounts your partner doesn’t know about?
- Do you go out of your way to post attractive or provocative pictures on Instagram or any other platform?
- Do you make flirty comments or send flirty messages?
- Is there anything you are doing online that you DON’T want your partner to know about or that would hurt them if they did?
If any of the answers to these questions is, yes, you have crossed the line. Whether you are cheating with Instagram or using another social media platform it still needs to stop.
Social media has made it easier and easier to escape from the realities of our own lives. And, because it’s online, it often seems like the connections we make and exchanges we have really have no impact on our real lives. People in relationships that are having troubles can find it easy to connect with others online and find comfort from the virtual companionship. Not only is this a betrayal to the relationship, it can easily translate into real-world actions as well.
The idea that keeping a screen between you and someone else means everything is innocent is a misconception and often a detrimental one. Cheating is anything that can break the trust you have with your partner or betray them in anyway. And even if that cheating is through Instagram or another social platform, it can be just as damaging as a physical affair.
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