Ben Shapiro: We Need To Stop Micro-Cheating | Opinion

In our new social media age, the problem of cheating has become more complex. Before social media, we generally considered cheating to be sexual activity; flirting wasn't moral, but it wasn't quite cheating—and it came with a good deal of risk. Flirting required secret phone calls, furtive assignations, covert letter-writing. Now, flirting is just a click of a button away. Even pornography—immoral again, but not quite cheating—required effort.

Now, as with most things modern, effort is no longer required. And that means plentiful flirting—or, as Ty Tashiro, author of The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love, terms it, "micro-cheating." Tashiro defines micro-cheating as "a relatively small act of emotional infidelity with someone outside of a person's committed relationship," often via social media. Tashiro says that such acts can be highly damaging to relationships, since they amount to a betrayal of trust. "When one betrays a partner's trust there are always emotional consequences for the partner's well-being and the integrity of the relationship."

Human beings are, by nature, risk averse. Taking too many risks means being killed in the wild. Taking too many risks inside a relationship is similar: it means destroying the chances of long-lasting happiness. But the availability of social connection via the internet reduces those risks dramatically. According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, 45 percent of men and 35 percent of women have admitted to an "emotional affair." 60 percent of such affairs begin at work. A 2008 Australian study found that 10 percent of adults in a relationship had formed an "intimate online relationship." According to a 2015 U.S. YouGov poll, 56 percent of women say you're cheating if you start an emotional relationship with someone else, whereas only 38 percent of men believe that counts as cheating.

And online contact exacerbates real-life risks. If you're at work with someone to whom you're attracted, eventually the work day ends. But if you're on Facebook with that person, it's not difficult to exchange messages after the workday, or to text, or to direct message. Probably for many, such activity doesn't even feel wrong at the beginning—after all, a work "friend" isn't a work lover. But blurring lines between work and extracurricular activity broadens the field for micro-cheating.

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45 percent of men and 35 percent of women have admitted to an “emotional affair.” Getty Images

Furthermore, we're a post-marriage society. Premarital sex is ubiquitous; age of marriage has increased dramatically. Cohabitation has become a fact of life—as of 2012, two-thirds of married couples had lived together for at least two years before tying the knot. Marriage represents an investment of skin in the game: it means drawing hard lines. Living together provides no such guarantee. It is, consciously or not, an attempt to leave a door open. Combine that slightly-opened door with the availability of apps that allow you to keep in touch with ex-lovers, and you've created a higher chance of micro-cheating.

All of which means that in an age of increased ease of micro-cheating, we'd require better self-policing to avoid the consequences. But instead, we've embraced little to no self-policing. In fact, those who self-police are called prissy and puritanical. When Mike Pence says he won't dine with a woman without his wife, he's characterized as a character from The Handmaid's Tale. Our society despises standards so much that we've somehow conflated self-limitation with desire to limit the behavior of others. Evidence of the former somehow becomes evidence of the latter.

That's absurd. We all require limitations—and in a free society, we need to be the ones doing the limiting. That means unfriending high school partners on Facebook. It means setting up porn-blockers on computers. It means refusing to correspond with attractive colleagues outside the work environment. It means being better human beings. Perhaps it even means getting married so as to remind ourselves that there's a cost to frivolous micro-cheating.

Social media comes with great challenges. But if we rise to those challenges, we could become better human beings, not worse ones.

Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of The Ben Shapiro Show, available on iTunes and syndicated across America.​

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​