A public affair: When cheaters get caught through social media

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Justin Timberlake recently made headlines when he was caught on camera cosying up to and touching his co-star Alisha Wainwright.

The performer took to social media after the photos were widely shared online to apologize to his wife, Jessica Biel, and their family.

“A few weeks ago I displayed a strong lapse in judgement — but let me be clear — nothing happened between me and my co-star,” Timberlake posted on Instagram.

“I drank way too much that night and I regret my behaviour. I should have known better.”

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But Timberlake is not the only one to get caught canoodling — or cheating — thanks to social media. A recent Washington Post restaurant review reportedly exposed an ongoing affair after a woman’s husband was photographed with another woman at the establishment.

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For Jordan, who asked to only be identified by his first name, a Facebook message was how he discovered his long-term girlfriend was cheating.

The Toronto-area resident said his girlfriend had recently called off their engagement, but he had no idea why. When a stranger sent him a note saying he was involved with his partner, things became more clear.

“I looked at [the message], and it said: ‘Want to know why you’re not getting married? Ask [your girlfriend] and whatever she says, you can be sure that it’s just the tip of the iceberg,'” Jordan recalled.

“I was shocked, that’s the only way to describe it. I was beside myself… It was like something out of a movie.”

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Social media has changed the way people cheat — and get caught cheating, says Toronto-based psychotherapist Jupiter Vaughan.

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Dating apps or sites specifically created for extramarital affairs, like Ashley Madison, have made cheating more accessible. This is especially true for people already tempted to stray, Vaughan said.

What’s more, Vaughan says because so much of our lives are documented online and phones double as cameras, it is much easier for cheaters to be caught.

“Getting caught cheating pre-technology, you had to literally run into the person or you had to be told by a friend. And that friend didn’t have a camera, so they had no proof,” said Vaughan.

“What if a friend is lying? What if you don’t want to believe that person? There was a lot more up in the air. Now, it’s like, ‘I saw Bob with Jane, and here’s my photo.’ Everyone’s a detective, and it’s a really different landscape.”

Social media also makes it easier to reach out to people who are being cheated on, as in the case of Jordan.

After Jordan received that heart-wrenching Facebook message, he got the man’s number and called him. After their chat, Jordan had more questions for his girlfriend.

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“I made her kind of give me a timeline of everything that happened because it had been [going on] for about three months,” he said. “She had deleted all of their text messages… and I knew I didn’t trust her.”
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He left their shared home, and they eventually broke up.

Moving forward

Vaughan says if you receive information or photos regarding a cheating spouse, you should first verify the source. If there’s photographic evidence, it can be hard for cheating partners to deny the allegations.

After you confront your partner, it’s important to surround yourself with loved ones and lean on a strong support network, Vaughan said.

Therapy can also be instrumental in working through the loss and betrayal that often comes with affairs.

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What should you do if your partner is texting their ex?

Jordan has learned a lot through his experience. He says he coped by spending time with friends and putting himself in positive environments.

He says even though being cheated on was devastating, learning about the affair through social media was eye-opening. Had he not received that first Facebook message, it is unclear if the cheating would have come to light.

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It’s been a few years now since the incident, and Jordan has moved on. He is in a happy relationship and is getting married next year.

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His advice for those who discover cheating?

“Don’t close yourself off to the possibility of meeting someone else.”