Technology has made it easier to access information, record memories and meet new people. However, research by law firm Slater and Gordon shows that one in seven married people have considered divorce because of their spouse’s social media activity.
Despite high data costs, South Africans have taken to social media with enthusiasm. Research by Biznews.com shows that by 2014 an estimated 7,2-million South Africans were using Youtube regularly, which is second only to the figure of 11,8 million using Facebook. The number of local Instagram users grew from 680 000 in 2013 to 1,1 million in 2014, with 6,6 million South Africans using Twitter.
Sexting, watching porn and flirty messages are some of the behaviours that lead to a break in trust in a relationship, says divorce lawyer Charles Mandelow, who has 30 years’ experience. The number of South Africans divorcing because of something incriminating they found on their spouse’s phone has increased.
“Today there is very little lying and cheating you can do without being detected. The minute marriages become difficult, there seems to be a tendency for a spouse to check their partner’s phone to find out what is going on. And you will see a whole range of things coming out,” explains Mandelow.
Information released by Statistics South Africa this year shows that the number of people getting divorced increased in 2014. A total of 24 689 divorced applications were processed, 3,4% more than the previous year. These divorces were mainly initiated by the female partner.
“In a lot of divorce cases, you will see alleged in the papers, probably truly alleged, that the spouse is addicted to porn, spends an undue amount of time on the internet and furthermore, might be conducting an internet affair. That has become quite a big thing – there are a lot of these internet affairs,” explains Mandelow.
He points out that in the old days people had to work harder to prove any suspicions they might have had about their spouse’s infidelity, even going as far as hiring a private detective. These days all you have to do is look on your partner’s phone.
Social media also means that the number of people that your partner can cheat with has increased. Mandelow says that cheating is not limited by national borders.
“A bloke might be in South Africa and she might be in Russia, or who knows where, and they are actually conducting an internet affair,” he says.