Why sneaking a peek at your partner's emails, texts and Facebook can be dangerous.
- Carrie Seim, BettyConfidential.comYou're out for drinks with your boyfriend. He excuses himself to go to the men's room, leaving his iPhone on the table. Suddenly, it buzzes alive with a text message, just like it's been doing every night this week. Should you "innocently" pick it up and find out who the hell keeps lighting up your man? Or should you let sleeping phones lie?
Last year, a study by Virgin Mobile Australia found that one-third of cell phone users admitted to text message snooping. And most of those sneaking a peek at their partner's phones were women, according to the survey.
It's hard to resist the temptation of snooping through our significant other's texts, emails, digital pics and Facebook messages. These days we leave a trail of e-crumbs behind our every step - and our every sin. Like it or loathe it, this all makes e-snooping easier than ever.
But when - if ever - is cyber-snooping OK?
Dave, 38, an L.A.-based writer and director, cheekily explains the rules this way:
"According to the Freedom of Information Act, Paragraph 2, Clause 6.3: A person is entitled to the information contained within and transmitted by the communication devices of the person they are dating if and only if said person is asleep, in the bathroom or forgot the thing at your house. All other instances of snooping are wrong, immoral and scandalous without written permission and punishable by noogies, wedgies and wet willies."
Greg, a 31-year-old guy from the Midwest, sarcastically points out to BettyConfidential that snooping "isn't any more wrong than stealing someone's credit card or hitting on their best friend."
Ouch. Clearly, men aren't down with e-snooping. But if they've got nothing to hide, what's the big deal?
Becky, a 29-year-old stay-at-home mom from Toronto, says the fact that her husband leaves his passwords lying around indicates he "wants me to look" at his email. She frequently scans his account for notes from unfamiliar females.
"If he gets overly friendly with a new colleague on email, I bring it up with him," she says. "I've even asked him to cut contact with certain women." However, she claims she really isn't worried that her husband might be cheating. "Checking his email is like taking vitamins - it's a preventative measure!"
Unfortunately, most cases of cyber snooping don't have such a happy ending.Texts From a "Tramp"
Kerry, a 24-year-old Hollywood actress, tells BettyConfidential that she once secretly checked her boyfriend's text messages and found that a girl had "texted him her tramp love." The boyfriend vowed the "tramp" was just a friend and he and Kerry patched things up.
But her urge to snoop soon came back. "I snuck a peek at his cell late one night while he was sleeping," she says. "I checked his email through his phone, only to find the tramp was emailing him pictures. So if you ladies feel the need to check up on your boy, he's probably up to no good. We always know."
F*** You, Caroline.doc
Caroline, a 29-year-old teacher from Queens, N.Y., tells BettyConfidential that she couldn't resist snooping through her now-ex-boyfriend's laptop. "I see no reason not to have information," she says, though she concedes she'd be "totally devastated" if she discovered her current boyfriend snooping through her computer.
Caroline says she didn't expect to find anything crazy when she scanned her ex's computer; maybe some "adult entertainment." Instead, she discovered a document labeled "F*** You Caroline," full of angry poetry about her.
The couple broke up a few days later, proving another common pitfall of snooping: the news you nose up is rarely good. According to the Australian survey, 73 percent of text snoopers found out things about their partners they later wished they hadn't.
"We each need a certain level of privacy," says Lynn, a teacher's aide from Florida, who says she'd never snoop on her husband. "Besides, messages coming in [on text or email] can be very misleading."
Manhattan psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona says that infrequent snooping, such as scrolling through a message that your partner accidently left open on Facebook or email, may be excusable as a case of "benign curiosity."
"However, calculated, repeated and purposeful snooping suggests the strong possibility of deeper issues such as distrust, fear, suspicion and poor communication," he warns. Dr. Cilona encourages couples to discuss exactly what privacy means to them early on - as the term can have very different meanings to different people.
As hard as it may be, the best relationship medicine may be to stop e-snooping cold turkey. Give up those covert text checks after your boyfriend falls asleep. Take back your secret GPS tracker. Strike up an honest conversation instead.
And if you truly can't stop snooping, be prepared to face the consequences. (And please, oh please, text us what you find out…)
Have you ever snooped through your partner's texts, emails or Facebook messages? Did you find anything you wished you hadn't?
Carrie Seim, Betty's L.A. Correspondent, is a writer and comedian keeping it real in L.A., New York and @ carrieseim.com.
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