Posts tagged ‘Affair’

Ashley Madison, Morality, and Legality

Broken MarriageSex sells. Or so the old advertising cliché tells us. But even if it’s cliché, it also happens to be true. And no company knows this truth better than Ashley Madison. They have built their business on appealing to those who want to cheat on their spouses. Their slogan, “Life is short; have an affair,” sums up their business model. They promise would-be cheaters the ability to discretely find each other online, meet up, and break their wedding vows, all the while hiding their infidelity from their spouses. But last month, the security of Ashley Madison’s secretive sex services was dealt a blow. The New York Times reports:

The company behind Ashley Madison, a popular online dating service marketed to people trying to cheat on their spouses, said on Monday that the site had been breached by hackers who may have obtained personal data about the service’s millions of members.

The group of hackers behind the attack, going by the name Impact Team, said they had stolen information on the 37 million members of Ashley Madison. To prevent the data from being released, the hackers said, the company needed to shut down the site entirely.[1]

This story is fascinating on many fronts. First, it is fascinating that the Times refers to Ashley Madison as “a popular online dating service.” Truthfully, it is nothing of the sort. Dating is not the same as hooking up. Ashley Madison is not particularly interested in promoting healthy, stable, long-term relationships. They are interested in helping people scratch their lustful itches.

Second, it is fascinating how Noel Biderman, the CEO of Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison, is characterizing this breach of security: “Like us or not, this is still a criminal act.”[2] Mr. Biderman characterizes what has happened to his company only in legal terms. He does not say what the hackers did was wrong. He does not talk about the ethical problems that accompany invading someone’s privacy. He does not cast anything in terms of good or bad, right or wrong.

Of course, Mr. Biderman’s moral ambivalence at this security breach is inescapably necessary. After all, his whole company is devoted to encouraging and enabling that which is deeply immoral. Thus, his only recourse to denounce anything is legal. But when the technicalities of legality displace the standards of morality, humans are left with nothing but depravity. For humans will inevitably bend the law to satisfy and justify their own desires – even when those desires are categorically evil. Legislation cannot fix – and very often has trouble even restraining – human sinfulness.

Third, Mr. Biderman’s characterization of what has happened to his company in strictly legal terms aside, what has happened to Ashley Madison does represent a supreme moral irony. Ashley Madison is a company that has built its reputation and fortune on deceit – on providing people a way to cover up their sexual dalliances. Now, a group calling themselves the Impact Team, who some security experts have suggested may be a group of insiders, has deceived the masters of deceit by managing to hack into Ashley Madison’s most sensitive information. Deceit has been laid bare by deceit. And what the hackers will do with this information next is the source of great apprehension.

Whatever comes of the hacked data, this much is sure: Ashley Madison needs to change their slogan. They may tell you “life is short” so you can “have an affair,” but when your spouse catches you, the havoc you will have wreaked in your marriage won’t feel short. It’ll feel like an eternity. And that’s why you ought to think long and hard before you log on to Ashley Madison. Because if you do, you won’t. And that would be good.

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[1] Dino Grandoni, “Ashley Madison, a Dating Website, Says Hackers May Have Data on Millions,” The New York Times (7.20.2015).

[2] Wilborn P. Nobles III, “After hackers expose cheaters, AshleyMadison hookup site offers ‘full delete’ option,” The Washington Post (7.20.2015).

August 10, 2015 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Facebook Follies

“Does Facebook Wreck Marriages?”  So asked the provocative title of Quentin Fottrell’s blog for the Wall Street Journal.[1]  Of course, we know that Facebook in and of itself is not responsible for the breakdown of wedded bliss; rather, it is the way people use Facebook that damages marriages.  Still, the statistics cited in Fottrell’s article are staggering:

  • More than a third of divorce filings last year contained the word “Facebook.”
  • Over 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys say they’ve seen a rise in the number of cases using social networking.
  • Of the fifteen cases Gary Traystman, a divorce attorney in New London, Connecticut, handles per year where computer history, texts, and emails are admitted as evidence, 60% involve Facebook exclusively.

Why does Facebook play such a key role in so many connubial collapses?  Fottrell brings in an expert for keen insights:

“Affairs happen with a lightning speed on Facebook,” says K. Jason Krafsky, who authored the book Facebook and Your Marriage with his wife Kelli. In the real world, he says, office romances and out-of-town trysts can take months or even years to develop. “On Facebook,” he says, “they happen in just a few clicks.” The social network is different from most social networks or dating sites in that it both re-connects old flames and allows people to “friend” someone they may only met once in passing. “It puts temptation in the path of people who would never in a million years risk having an affair,” he says.

Krafsky’s last line is key:  “It puts temptation in the path of people.”

Jesus knew how readily people can fall to temptation when it is placed even peripherally in their path.  This is why He warns His disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).  Jesus’ caution against temptation and His diagnosis of the flesh’s relative spiritual strength, or rather, its lack thereof, ought to be taken seriously.

When a marriage is in disarray, Facebook can provide an all too easily accessible foray into the arena of temptation.  Its appeal lies at two opposing poles.  On the one side, Facebook provides a public forum for a scorned spouse to spout off about how he or she has been wronged and receive eager and many times blind support from friends who are, at best, only partially informed about the situation.  On the other side, though Facebook is public, it deceptively feels private.  After all, it’s only “friends” who can see what you are posting – that is, until a divorce attorney subpoenas records from your Facebook account and presents them in court as incriminating evidence.

Both the public and private faculties of Facebook make its appeal to those in rocky relationships almost irresistible.  But when Facebook is used to arbitrate an unsettled union, it inevitably leads to ruin.  For it allows couples to steep themselves in the sometimes rotten advice from friends or the sometimes illicit advances of lovers while avoiding conversation with the person they need to be talking with the most – the other spouse.

So, how can a couple use Facebook to connect with friends – old and new alike – while steering clear of its more seedy enticements?  A few practical, common sense safeguards can go a long way to protecting your integrity – and your marriage.

  • First, make sure your spouse has access to your Facebook account.  There is no reason why your spouse should not know what you’re posting online.  If you’re trying to surprise him or her using a little help from your Facebook friends, find another way.  Sustained trust trumps an occasional need for the secrecy of a surprise.
  • Second, if your marriage is troubled, personal details are not Facebook appropriate.  You don’t need uneven advice from partial pals, you need professional guidance from a licensed therapist.  Facebook is a great place to post thought-provoking quotes, interesting articles, and even pictures of your Memorial Day backyard barbeque or your newborn bouncing baby boy.  It is not an appropriate place, however, to air your, or someone else’s, dirty laundry.  Falstaff, though he was a shameful coward in Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth, proved to be wise beyond his actions when he said, “The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have sav’d my life.”[2]  Discretion on Facebook may just save your marriage.
  • Third, be discerning.  Believe it or not, regardless of a person’s Facebook classification as your “friend,” not everyone you communicate with on social networking sites has your best interest at heart.  And not everyone who proffers advice via the internet knows what he or she talking about, or, as the case may be, “posting” about.  This means that you should not set yourself up to get bad advice from your Facebook friends by posting sordid details of your life gone awry, nor should you insert yourself via public posts into someone else’s messy Facebook spectacle.  If you’re truly concerned about someone, a face-to-face conversation, or, if that is impossible, a private conversation by some other means, works much better than a public posting.

Finally, a sober estimation of your own sinful desires and weaknesses may be the best safeguard against the wily relational entrapments that internet social networking can bring.  No matter how strong you may think your marriage is, all it takes is one click or keystroke to lead it down the road to ruin.  And so we pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13).


[1] Quentin Fottrell, “Does Facebook Wreck Marriages?The Wall Street Journal (5.21.12).

[2] William Shakespeare, Henry the Fourth (Part 1, Act 5, Scene 4).

June 4, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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