Time was when extra-marital hanky-panky was a relatively straightforward affair. If a chap rolled in drunk at two in the morning, who was to say he hadn’t been at an office bash? If he took a call in his mistress’s bedroom, why not pretend that he was actually working late? If an apparently loving wife whispered sweet nothings down the line to her secret lover, what record was kept of their conversation?
Yet today, thanks to smartphones and social networks, we can all snoop, or be snooped upon, to a degree that makes News International’s voicemail-hacking private detectives look like amateurs. Not only can Google and Mac can track you 24/7, so can your spouse, thanks to tracking functions that broadcast your exact position to the world.
Even if you disable those programs, you’re still not safe.
Where previous generations wrote love letters to one another, modern romantics text: their every desire expressed in smut-powered passion by tapping thumbs against a smartphone screen. And of course they cannot bear to delete these words of love. The fools!
Scorned spouses have always hunted down the proof of their other half’s misbehaviour. Wives, in particular, combine the paranoia of Josef Stalin, the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes and Pandora’s fatal inability to leave a box – or inbox – unopened.
Accept it, pal, she will find your texts… and your lover’s sexy voicemails… and the incriminating Private Messages on your Facebook account. Oh come on, of course she knows your password! And if you think she’s bad, just wait till your teenage kids get to work.
Anyone under 25 leads their entire life in public. They post photographs of everything they do, live on Twitter and analyse the meaning of each one of these digital fingerprints with forensic precision. They will spot it if you are in a picture you should not be in, or absent from one where you should be present.
It’s no good saying you were at the office party if it’s all over the internet and you’re in none of the shots. It’s no good posting some silly, flirtatious, drunken tweet and expecting that people won’t notice.
This is the age Warhol spoke of when he said we’d all be famous for 15 minutes. But even he could not have envisaged quite how that would work. Who knew that we would all be available on Facebook, Twitter and Google; that every word and image would be preserved forever, somewhere up there in the blogosphere; that we would not only be micro-celebrities, but subject to our own celebrity scandals?
There is really only one way for the thoroughly modern adulterer to behave, and that is to return to the past. Drop off the grid. Communicate only by letter and direct conversation. Leave no electronic footprint anywhere.
And if you absolutely have to convey your passion to your loved one, don’t say it with text. Say it with flowers, the way we used to.
Just remember to delete that online receipt.
Make friends with Beau de Jour on Facebook.