The good old game of cheating on a spouse has gone digital – all thanks to Facebook, the globally successful social networking site that even presidential candidates and other politicos are exploiting to sell their message.

To get into the game all you need is the name of an ex-lover, whether an old flame of first love. You simply log on to Facbook, click the right buttons, and voila! you get reconnected to an old flame..

Say a simple hello and the deeply buried come flooding back and gushing out. You need no love letters and the agony of the long process of waiting for the reply. With the new improved method of cheating, it is instant, cheaper and the parners in the affair can communicate at any hour, day or night, and right from home with your unsuspecting spouse even sitting beside you.

Interestingly the Blackberry and other smartphones make it so convenient with instant messages and chat rooms. In other words, you are in a world of your own. As the thrills set in, and fuelled by secrecy, memories of the break are erased and both parties, clearly forgetting that they might eventually get their fingers burnt ‘drown’ themselves in the ocean of passion.

The result is that what began as a simple reunion on Facebook eventually leads to broken marital vows, leaving devastated spouses and angry children. Such was the case of Irene (not real name) who discovered what she called her husband’s Facebook betrayal. “Last July 2009, I discovered my husband had been chatting online through Facebook with a former high school friend who was a single woman. I stumbled on some emails which were very upsetting.

When I approached him about them he admitted he was emotionally involved with her. He even said that our marriage was in trouble. It was a complete shock to me,” Irene said, making a great effort to conceal her pain.
Olufemi Oluwole, who regularly spends time on Facebook opined that some spouses really feel insecure when their partner gets addicted to Facebook.

“I have read articles on the effect of Facebook on relationships and I know that it is true most husbands get jealous when they see their wives hooked on Facebook, chatting with old mates, former boyfriends and what have you. Also many wives feel bad too when they see their husbands get closer to their old flames through Facebook. They pry into one another’s inbox and sometimes they just leave a message on their status update that states, now single, now divorced etc.

However, Yetunde Onipede who works with an NGO holds a different view: “Facebook doesn’t break homes but some married people don’t know their boundaries. Because they are not physically seeing that person, they believe they can flirt, but that in most cases gets them into trouble with their spouse. You know they start off with some leading question and instead of the party to put a stop the person keeps playing with fire and one thing leads to another.”

Interestingly, what started off as ‘innocent’ online flirting has been known to eventually lead both parties to schedule a tryst in a hotel. People and particularly puritanists that may be tempted to blame Facebook for broken marriages need to honestly ask themselves whether the social networking site induced the user to making clicking efforts until he/she found the ex-lover. The site certainly didn’t ignite the flirty conversation, neither did it give the location address or pass on phone contacts and for that matter, it also didn’t pay the hotel bills. Humans without discipline and consideration for the feelings of the spouse did it all.

According to psychologists, what Facebook simply does to an adult is described as teenage denial. Incidentally, Facebook started off with young people who are more vulnerable to cheat and when they are into relationship they relapse into an obsessive long lost relationship from the past. The psychologists insist that rekindled romances on social networking sites are mere fantasies and usually recommend that they “move on or find out what is wrong in their marriage.”

A recent study shows that one-in-five divorce fillings in New York, USA cite problems relating to Facebook and other social networking sites. Facts are also emerging that Facebook affairs are even threatening healthy couples too. However, not all Facebook affairs lead to the sheets, especially if you have a very sensitive and caring spouse who takes notice easily. But cheating emotionally could be somewhat terrible too. When you start sharing your thoughts with another woman or man as the case may be, then there is so much trouble ahead. Because cheating emotionally could be a lot worse than the physical aspect.

Another Facebook victim, Kelly suspected her relationship was threatened. “He was suddenly working late, going out with people I’d never heard of,” she said. So Kelly did a bit of Internet sleuthing with Google and discovered that her live-in lover had created a second Facebook account, which he hid from her. When Kelly confronted him about the account, he got very angry with her for “snooping around.”

Kelly said she did not have to confirm physical cheating to feel like she had been betrayed.
The painful truth is that online affairs could be tricky in the sense that there is no physical evidence to show that the other party is cheating, because he hardly lives home, and there is no whiff of the other woman’s perfume on him, no lipstick stains, no telltale signs except for the computer records.

One other person who had a bad Facebook experience was Abimbola, whose husband began spending more time that was appropriate on the internet. Wondering why, Abimbola said that she decided to find out.
“When I found out my husband was always busy on the net, I began wondering what kept him so glued to it. Then I decided to become an FBI agent and did some snooping. I found out that he was flirting with a divorcee on the net; I was told they met on a dating site and took on Facebook.

I decided to get my own revenge on him. So I changed my marital status on Facebook and joined a dating site with a provocative picture and a new name. I sent him a message to add me as a friend. He was dumbfounded and shocked. He came crawling back and this time with details of the confession. I guess he couldn’t handle the flirty conversation other guys were having with his wife,” Abimbola said with a smug smile of victory.