Jane Bradley: Online infidelity is never harmless

Ashley Madison had data leaked by hackers. Picture: AFP/Getty
Ashley Madison had data leaked by hackers. Picture: AFP/Getty
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WHAT an accolade for Novac Djokovic. I’m sure he’s thrilled. Forget his three Wimbledon wins and his five Australian Open titles.

No, the happily married tennis star, who met his wife while he was a high school student, has been ranked the player that the majority of people signed up to a cheaters’ dating site want to sleep with.

This shiny nugget of information came from a survey carried out by a website which is designed for people who are in a relationship to meet others who want to cheat on their partners. You’d think those websites would be struggling, considering the scandal which hit when market leader Ashley Madison recently had its data stolen by hackers, ousting thousands of married cheaters.

But from the way this lot act - they’re also a company with a strange, human-sounding name, “Victoria Milan”, presumably meant to elicit glamour and exoticism - it’s like they think people believe it’s normal. And they’re doing their best to convince us of the same with their quirky “studies” issued as if they were a standard consumer group. Which? for love rats.

This Djokovic nonsense is the latest in a long line of breezy “news” stories I have received from this company over the past few weeks. The latest proclaimed that cheaters are more likely to fall in love in summer, but still won’t leave their partners. Before that, I was told that 32 per cent of “experienced” cheaters send their kids away to summer camps during the school holidays to give them some spare time for illicit nooky.

Hilarious - as long as you push aside the thought that these kids who are being popped into summer camps are going to eventually bear the fall- out of their parents’ actions.

But what is even more terrifying is that there exists this band of “experienced cheaters” whose behaviour is now being sanctioned - and enabled - by modern technology. These are people who go out looking to inject some home-wrecking misery into their lives, by choice.

It’s been a slippery slope to this point, fuelled by the immediate accessibility of the internet. Long ago, internet dating was born. An easy way to meet like-minded people. Fine. Next stop Tinder - the swipe-and-go app which claims it’s not aimed at facilitating casual hook-ups, but long term relationships. Ahem. There’s also Grindr, the “all-male location-based social network” which offers a “new kind of dating experience”. Now, there are the cheating sites.

However, stats issued in the wake of the Ashley Madison debacle have shown that a large proportion of people who sign up to cheaters’ sites do so without actually meaning to take part in any illicit activity.

You know how it is. The wife is out for a night with the girls. Jeremy Clarkson’s not on Top Gear anymore. He doesn’t REALLY want to cheat, but he wonders what’s out there if he did. Unfortunately, to have a good squizz through people’s profiles, he has to sign up.

He logs on to one of the sites - probably avoiding Ashley Madison in case his details are leaked. Boom. He is now officially recorded on the internet as someone who wants to cheat on their partner. I say he, because it has been suggested that only a tiny proportion of the people signed up to Ashley Madison was actually female, with many of the women’s profiles being fakes. This is a claim the site has vehemently denied, although it has admitted that some of its “features” are placed there “to provide entertainment”.

Either way, in the olden days before the internet, the wonderers would never have signed up. These companies undoubtedly existed, but on a far smaller and more niche scale. To get involved, a curious would-be cheater would probably have had to phone up and speak to someone. Not so anonymous. And presumably offputting.

However, these days, typing your details into an online form is second nature to most people. All of you probably did it three times last week to buy a pair of shoes, or sign up for a newsletter you didn’t really want. Similarly, everyone under the age of 30 was on Tinder before they settled down and got hitched. This is no different.

But it is. Let’s not normalise underhand behaviour. Of course it’s going to happen but, as a society, we don’t have to collectively condone it.