08.28.08, 03:54 AM #1
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Modern technology means it's never been easier to expose a partner's lies
What could be more family-friendly than a Nintendo Wii, a games console replete with motion-sensing technology and gleaming white purity?
Just look at the marketing: families bounding around the living room, gurning with unbridled joy as they compete with each other at video tennis and baseball.
The message is clear: a Wii is the new social hub, it stands for wholesome, healthy family values. It's even got brain training and fitness applications.
Is adultery going out of style? Modern technology is making it easier to discover cheating partners
So the recent stories about the man in the United States who reportedly filed for divorce, citing his Wii as a catalyst for his wife's infidelity, would have had Nintendo's marketing Svengalis frothing at the mouth.
Returning from a deployment in Iraq, the unnamed soldier is said to have plugged in his console - no doubt for some light relief - and uncovered evidence that while he was fighting the insurgency, his wife had been conducting her own secret manoeuvres.
You see, a Wii has a gizmo that allows a player to store his or her personal profile, called a Mii.
The soldier discovered that his wife's Mii had spent long evenings virtual bowling with another Mii.
When he confronted her, she admitted that the mystery Mii was her lover. As more and more philanderers are discovering, modern technology has an increasingly unpleasant ability to trip us up, even the whiter-than white Wii.
Today, to function as an effective member of 21st century society, we have to engage with a bewildering array of electronic gadgets, few of which we fully understand.
We stomp digital footprints all over the place, and the unforeseen result of engaging in the information age is that it is becoming harder to have secrets - and, as a result, harder to cheat on each other.
Day-to-day actions, such as taking the bus to work and buying a magazine on the way, used to be ephemeral.
But today, every journey, every communication, every penny spent, is logged and stored.
As we move through life, we leave millions of specks of electronic evidence. Stored on hard drives and mainframes, this data acts like specks of DNA sprayed across the bedsheet of cyberspace. It's all there waiting to incriminate us.
In the face of our know-it-all culture, extramarital affairs do not stand a chance. They are becoming impossible to maintain. Those classic, long-running infidelities of the Seventies and Eighties are dying, killed off by the rise of the machines.
Modern love story: England goalkeeper David James walked out on his 13-year marriage after getting back with an old flame through Friends Reunited
As science drags us forward, it's a safe prediction that within the next decade, traditional affairs - ones with longevity, ones that take planning, scheming and logistics - will have vanished altogether.
The evidence is mounting. The number of divorces where adultery is cited as the reason for the breakup is dropping.
From 2005 to 2006, the number of divorces granted in the UK fell by 4.5 per cent to 148,141, the lowest number since 1977.
Last year, just 29 per cent of divorces happened as a consequence of an affair, down three per cent on 2006.
Affairs are getting shorter, too.
Currently, the most common duration of an affair is less than six months (68 per cent).
Twenty years ago, it was three years.
But if the final years of this decade are sounding the death-knell for the affair, the late Nineties and early Noughties were its zenith - and ever-cheaper technology was the fuel philanderers used to stoke the flames of desire.
Increasingly available technology - mobile phones, SMS messages, internet, BlackBerrys and Bluetooth - made it easier than ever to make contact and stay in touch.
'Technosexuals' used phones, email and the internet to hook up with partners. Bluetooth allowed the unfaithful to pick out potential partners on trains and in bars.
Research by the London School of Economics found that a quarter of mobile users sent sexually explicit text messages, and one in six flirted with someone who was not their partner via their phones.
As home PCs became affordable, huge numbers of us went online.
Through websites such as Friends Reunited, we started to seek out long-lost friends, often for romantic reasons.
Record: A record of the previous ten weeks' travel on an Oyster card can be seen by entering the serial number on a website
Bored husbands and housewives would track down high-school sweethearts and start affairs. Six months later, the marriage would be over. Luddites didn't stand a chance.
Even the England goalkeeper David James succumbed to the lure of Friends Reunited and walked out on his 13-year marriage after rekindling an affair with an old flame through the website.
Friends Reunited, launched in 2000, was arguably the first mainstream social networking site.
More than 15 million people subscribed. It was suddenly easy for any Tom, Dick or Harriet stuck in a loveless marriage to revive the carefree romances of their youth.
It became easier than ever to find people to cheat with. At the same time, the logistics of an affair also became easier, thanks to burgeoning communications technology.
The very structure of the way we communicate has changed.
Mobile phones outsold home phones; text-messaging abbreviations crept into standard language; emails replaced 'snail mail' and then telephone conversations; and finally, face-to-face conversations diminished as office workers began emailing colleagues sitting next to them rather than speaking to them.
On the internet, social networking spurred a new dotcom bonanza, with sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace. The number of sites dedicated to facilitating relationships rocketed.
Sites such as marriedsecrets.com and meet2cheat.co.uk all served to help people conduct affairs.
And it won't stop there. The BT futurologist Ian Pearson predicts that in the next ten to 15 years urban positioning technology will mean that you can text an attractive person in a bar just by pointing your phone at them.
(continued)"Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton
08.28.08, 03:54 AM #2
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He also predicts the rise of technology such as 'ego-badges' - jewellery-like devices on which you will be able to upload personal information for transmission to passers-by.
It would seem to follow from this that it should be bonanza time for the affair as far as the digital generation is concerned.
But the figures suggest not. Rates of younger marriages failing are dropping, and the reason is simple - while technology has made it easier to meet and communicate with people, it makes the secrecy needed to conduct an affair almost impossible.
There are just too many ways to get caught, and the technology-savvy realise this.
Back when maintaining a double life involved simply a call from a phone box and a secret rendezvous, there were few tracks to cover.
Today, it's almost impossible to do anything in secret.
Say you work in London and use public transport. Like five million Londoners, you have a pre-paid Oyster card to travel.
These blue 'smart cards' record the dates and times of all journeys taken, and a record of the previous ten weeks' travel can easily be seen by entering the card's serial number on a website.
So, if you lie to your spouse and tell her you were working late last Thursday, she can easily check if you're telling the truth.
Oyster cards are just the tip of the iceberg.
Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of computers can find out what websites have been accessed by sniffing out web history. It's easy to check a mobile phone, and a quick look at someone's Facebook profile tells you what they've been up to.
Snooping has never been easier - and this is just for the beginners.
Surveillance technology is now so widely available that anyone can spy on a partner with gadgets and software that James Bond would be proud of.
There is a whole industry feeding off the insecurities of suspicious partners.
For a few pounds, you can buy gadgets that read mobile phone SIM cards and recover deleted messages. For the hardcore spy, a £500 Miniature Covert GPS Tracker can be hidden in a car, recording its location via mobile phone signals and storing that data on a memory chip.
And for the really paranoid, there's the mobile phone service that uses tiny wireless cameras concealed around the home to record video footage and send it live to your mobile.
So, once you start an affair, at the first whiff of suspicion your partner has a frightening arsenal of state-oftheart technology with which to catch you.
And once you've been caught, modern technology makes it much easier to punish you publicly, too.
Because we can all connect to the internet, it now offers jilted lovers the ideal platform on which to air dirty laundry - quite literally.
Earlier this month, the wife of a cheating husband put a photo of his lover's lacy underwear on eBay. The listing, by annastella007 in Canberra, Australia, said the lingerie was 'so huge it may make a nice shawl'. It was offered for sale with an empty condom wrapper - 'size small' - the wife found in their bed.
Naming and shaming has gone global. Wronged partners have spurred a cottage industry in cyber-revenge.
Love rats have been humiliated on websites such as www.myexwifesabitch.com and www.cheated-on.com, set up four years ago by Susan Hughes from Devon after she discovered her RAF pilot boyfriend was married.
Relationship experts and marriage counsellors are now seeing indications of a sea change in the way people cheat, driven by the relentless advance of technology.
Andrew G. Marshall, a psychologist, wrote: 'While starting to cheat might be simple, keeping an affair going has become almost impossible.
'I would regularly counsel couples where an affair had lasted more than three years.
'Today, he or she will first get proof and confront. The result is that the length of affairs has dropped dramatically. Looking at all the evidence, it seems that the end of the secret affair is in sight.'
There is, however, one anomaly in the data and that is in the babyboomer generation.
It seems that it was the post-war generation that got to cheat with impunity, and recent research suggests they are still at it.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of New Hampshire found that the likelihood of a man having an affair now peaks at the age of 55.
Older generations, less engaged with modern technology, leave fewer traces when they cheat and are less likely to get caught. For them, cheating is still a viable option.
Divorce figures bear this out. Growing numbers of break-ups in long-established marriages are having a marked effect on divorce rates, traditionally dominated by younger couples.
While rates of young couples divorcing are decreasing, couples married for more than 30 years are now twice as likely to divorce as they were ten years ago.
In 1996, there were 16,700 divorces involving men in their 50s. In 2006, that figure rose to 24,700.
Of course, affairs are not always the reason for a divorce, but they feature increasingly in long-term marriages as, in a population staying healthier for longer, marriages are lasting longer too.
So there is an increasing chance that couples will get bored with each other in later life.
Older generations are also more financially secure, so divorce is less of a financial issue.
Add to this mix Viagra and other drugs that help men to stay sexually active, and Botox and cosmetic procedures that help women look younger, and you have a generation not yet ready to give up on extramarital activity.
In contrast, younger people are now leaving it later to get married, which means when they do get hitched, they will be less likely to stray.
Marital relationships and communication between the sexes have also changed in the past 30 years.
There is more equality between partners: women's independence and empowerment has meant that marriage is now a choice rather than a necessity for most brides, so most partnerships begin from a healthier starting point.
All this bodes well for the ever-decreasing numbers of people who do marry, but it leaves the prognosis for the affair looking decidedly shaky.
Where once the affair was treated with nudge-nudge-wink-wink s******s, there is now evidence of a moral backlash against philanderers.
Earlier this year, the author Mira Kirshenbaum, caused moral indignation with her book When Good People Have Affairs. In it, she dared to suggest that in some instances, infidelity can help marriages.
She was roundly criticised by her peers for suggesting that adulterers deserve sympathy, one stating: ' Adulterers are neither kind nor good people, so what sort of sympathy are we supposed to give them? A good person doesn't betray their loved ones.'
Especially not, it seems, if that good person has a high chance of being found out."Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton
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