As more details about the Petraeus Affair leak out, it’s becoming increasingly clear that marriage infidelity is no longer what it used to be. The digital trail of a cheating lover is simply too easy to track down these days, now that computers are the new private eyes. As a result, the current system of digital pseudonyms and anonymously shared email accounts - the same system used by General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell to conduct their affair - will likely be replaced by something entirely new. The place to look is your smartphone - thanks to native GPS functionality and the relative security of conducting private chats with anonymous users within an app environment, the smartphone app is the new future of marital infidelity.
The earliest prototype of the smartphone infidelity app made possible by location-based technology is the infamous Grindr app, which exploded in popularity approximately three years ago due to its embrace by the gay community. Suddenly, closeted members of the gay community had a way to locate hundreds of potential sexual partners using their smartphones. In many ways, the Grindr app includes the basics of everything you’d need to build the ultimate infidelity app – a private chat interface, the ability to create anonymous profiles and the ability to send photos and messages to potential partners. Using GPS technology, it's also possible to send maps to one another within the app so that you can find each other without having to share address information via email. You know, so a curious spouse or the FBI can't stumble upon it.
The impact of Grindr has been so fast and so furious in places like New York City that some have suggested that it has forever changed the art of hooking up. As a result, Grindr has spawned a whole new genre of location-based smart phone apps for straight men and women – including Blendr (a Grindr clone for men seeking women and vice versa) and OK Cupid Locals (a mobile app version of OK Cupid). These apps both work the same way, using GPS technology to help people find potential matches in their vicinity. And then, of course, there’s Momo, a new "flirting app" from China that has 16 million users and has already been called a potential marriage-wrecker by some.
Obviously, not everyone is using these new smart phone apps for infidelity. And not everyone is using these apps solely for random sex. However, there's clearly been a fundamental change in how technology has empowered people to explore relationships outside of marriage. We've all heard stories of people carrying on extramarital dalliances via Facebook -- sometimes even going so far as to construct parallel digital identities. And we've all heard stories about married men and women hanging out on dating sites, pretending to be single.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.
With smartphones, the extramarital hookup is now more accessible than ever before to women. In fact, that was one of the guiding principles behind Blendr – to make it just as easy for women to find men as it was for gay men to hook up with other gay men on Grindr. If you’re a woman, you don’t exactly want to be broadcasting that information on Facebook or Twitter, and you probably don't want to be going out to a singles bar alone. Smart phone apps give you anonymity. They also give you new power by being able to sift through tens, if not hundreds, of profiles at one time. (Although, in all fairness, some have said that the GPS functionality also increases your chances of being stalked).
In addition, smartphone apps are making it easier for members of the Baby Boomer generation to fool around. Consider that General Petraeus just turned 60 and had been married for 37 years when he started fooling around with his female biographer. And Miss Broadwell, while fabulously fit for her age, was 40. Forget The Seven Year Itch, this was the 37 Year Itch for General Petraeus. Call me naïve, but you would think that most of the infidelity going on these days is between younger people and not between people who are nearing retirement age. While it’s kinda icky to think that your grandparents are engaging in some digital hanky-panky, with smartphone apps, that may soon be the case. They can sit at home and scroll through endless images of other men and women who are just a few meters away from a good time.
And you can thank your little iPhone or Android phone for that. Marriage infidelity? Yep, there's an app for that. As a result, infidelity in the mobile era will look nothing like infidelity in the desktop PC era.
image: Jealous woman looking at partner chatting on the phone / Shutterstock