Should I Tell a Cheating Guy’s Girlfriend That We Hooked Up?

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
March 6 2012 3:36 PM

Revenge of the Facebook Stalker (Transcript)

 I hooked up with a jerk with a girlfriend—should I rat him out online?

Farhad Manjoo:  Do modern cheaters deserve a digital comeuppance?

Emily Yoffe:  I’m Emily Yoffe, Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist. 

Farhad:  I’m Slate’s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, and this is Manners for the Digital Age.

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Emily:  Today's question is from a woman who unwittingly hooked up with a guy who wasn't as single as he seemed, and now wonders if she should rat him out.

She writes, “Hi Emily and Farhad. My friend and I went home with two guys we met at a concert last night.  I hooked up with Rich, but when my friend later refused to hook up with his friend, Dan, Dan announced, ‘Whatever, we both have girlfriends anyway.’  Rich confirmed this. I came home and Facebook stalked them both, like all modern girls do. I found Rich's girlfriend on Facebook. They had been dating for over a year and seemed serious. I highly doubt this is a consensually non-monogamous relationship. In fact, my friend borrowed Rich's phone briefly and saw a text from his girlfriend that said, ‘Have fun. I trust you. I love you.’  Should I message her on Facebook about her lousy, cheating boyfriend?”  Signed, Facebook Stalker

Emily:  So, Farhad, should this woman exact revenge via social network? 

Farhad:  Yes, I think she should. I went back and forth on this, and I couldn't decide because I kind of felt like maybe I should cut this guy some slack. But he's such an idiot – and his friend is too – to hook up in this way and then announce, “Well, we both have girlfriends.” He presumably gave these women their real names. They’re just begging to be outed in this way. If there’s any sort of positive thing about Facebook, it's that we all live more transparently now. If you're going to live transparently, if you're going to put all your stuff out on the Internet, you should suffer the consequences I think. 

Emily:  I think that's one of the negative things about Facebook. But in this case, I say Facebook comes to the rescue. First of all, let me back up a little about the guys. Girls, what are you thinking? I'm assuming “hook up” means some kind of serious sex act.  Maybe she needs to prioritize. Instead of calling the girlfriend first, she should call her local STD clinic and get checked out because this whole thing is just ridiculous.  I know they’re young people, but don't sleep with some guy you just met at a concert… unless it's the guy giving the concert, maybe. 

I agree with you. These guys deserve no protection. I actually have an objection to these Facebook stalking, Facebook lurking terms. The stuff is out there. Go ahead and look if you want. I don't think it should have any negative connotation. These girls have done some detective work, and I think it would be doing a service to let the girlfriends know, "Hey, this is what the guys you trust do when they go to a concert." 

Farhad:  It's not stalking. If you put your stuff out on the Internet, if you put your name and all your relationships out on the web, you’re inviting this kind of thing. Obviously, someone you sleep with is going to look you up online, and they’re going to see that you’re a terrible person, and you're going to have to suffer the consequences for it. 

I think that if more people told on these lousy, cheating boyfriends (like we’re saying this woman should do), we’d have fewer lousy, cheating boyfriends. Maybe what we’re really encouraging is that people should just cheat secretly, more anonymously – give each other fake names. 

There’s this site called Ashley Madison. It's a dating site for people who are married, and you go on there and you say you’re married and you want to hook up with someone else who’s married. The idea behind it is that it's mutually-assured destruction. You’re both going to be secret about it, because you both have something to lose. Maybe by telling this woman to go after this boyfriend, maybe that's what we are encouraging. 

Emily:  Farhad, how do you know about Ashley Madison?

Farhad:  You know how I know about it? I wrote a story about Anthony Weiner, and then I spoke to the people at Ashley Madison. I am not a member.

Emily:  Oh sure, thank you. You're not a member. Sure, the Weiner excuse. Okay, go with that. I'm not so sure I trust technology to change human nature in any profound way as far as cheating is concerned. You’re right. Here you go. There's a technological cutout that allows you to more easily cheat. 

But I do think, in this case, before Facebook if you had hooked up with these jerks, how would you possibly start tracking down their girlfriends? You’d have to call people and really do some embarrassing detective work. So, here it is. They used their real names. I say, ladies, female solidarity. Let these other women know who they’re really involved with. 

Farhad:  I think we've mentioned it before that if you are going out with someone and they don't have a Facebook profile, you should be suspicious. 

Emily:  Wait a minute. You may have mentioned that.

Farhad:  I think I’ve recommended that. You know why, though? Imagine if this guy didn't have a Facebook profile. That’s why. You should be suspicious of someone who is not making your relationship known publicly on a site like Facebook.  I’m going to go on record with that.

Emily:  I'm fine with people not having a Facebook page if they don't want one. However, I think you’re right. If you’re of a certain age and you meet someone who you are about to go to bed with, and that person doesn't have a Facebook page, you may be getting a false name. It could be some kind of red flag. This also comes back to don't sleep with the guy you met at the concert.

Farhad:  Or at least check their Facebook page before you do.

Emily:  Or at least use a condom.

Farhad:  Yes, that too.

Emily:  Okay, Farhad. Here's my bottom line.  No sleeping with people you don't know.  If you do, and you find out they have a girlfriend, let her know on Facebook. 

Farhad:  I agree with you. You should let her know on Facebook.  I also recommend you should check out people's Facebook profiles before you sleep with them. 

Emily:  Send us your questions about shifting etiquette in the online age. Our address is digitalmanners@slate.com

Farhad:  You can also join our Facebook page where we carry on the conversation throughout the week. Go to www.Facebook.com/digitalmanners.

Emily:  And we’ll talk to you next time on Manners for the Digital Age.

Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column.