If you’ve gotten past the stage of monitoring the ‘last seen’ update during flirty Whatsapp back and forths and getting your guy to be ‘in a relationship’ with you on Facebook, you’d be wrong in thinking the digital foreplay in your life, or his, is over.
According to a study from the University of Indiana, both women and men in relationships are now using Facebook and other digital media to keep in touch with exes or potential romantic partners in case their current relationships don’t work out. The study found that participants in relationships had, on average, up to two ‘back burners’ – people that they had romantic or sexual conversations with other than their current partner. Men also had twice as many back burners as women.
The opportunities to chat to anyone you might potentially be interested in are so abundant and accessible that it’s easy to slip into a situation that is essentially emotional cheating or digital infidelity.
In an article in the Washington Post journalist Caitlin Dewey notes that the strength of a relationship relies on three things: emotional investment, satisfaction and the availability of other partners. The world of digital networks means that we’re all connected to more potential partners than ever before, which means that relationships are tested more than ever.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner will leave as soon as someone better comes along. The study found no correlation between the existence of back burners and partners’ commitment to relationships.
Perhaps this is just a new form of emotional security that will become, if it hasn’t already, a normal part of our lives. On the other hand, as if relationships were not difficult enough to maintain already, it’s one more challenge to overcome.