Cyberspace and Sexting: Does Online Infidelity Always Lead to Real Life Cheating?

In the news, we increasingly hear about public figures behaving badly on the internet and on their cell phones – such as Anthony Weiner, Brett Favre and Tiger Woods, to name a few examples.However, though cyberspace and texting have opened up new channels for sex and infidelity, there is no substitute for physical, face-to-face contact, according to a new study.Researchers investigated the behaviors of people who committed infidelity through the internet and by “sexting” – sending sexually explicit text messages and photographs.  More than 5,000 people who were members of an “infidelity” website were involved in the study.

The survey found that over two-thirds of the participants had cheated online while in a serious relationship, but over three-quarters had cheated in real life.  Women were more likely to engage in sexting behaviors than men, but both sexes were equally as likely to have cheated both online and in real life.

Moreover, the goal of most members of the infidelity website was to find real-life partners for dating and sexual encounters, rather than online-only partners.

“Our research suggests that as technology changes, the way people find each other and the way they attract a potential partner also changes,” the researchers said.  “While social networking sites are increasingly being used for social contact, people continue to be more interested in real-life partners, rather than online partners. It seems that, at some point in a relationship, we need the physical, face-to-face contact. Part of the reason for this may be that, ultimately, humans are social creatures.

The study was published in the journal Sexuality & Culture.