The other day I saw a couple of women on the Today Show doing an interview and quipping that cheating was not really cheating (opens in new tab) as long as no one gets caught. I was surprised that my conversations with co-workers about this idea yielded mixed opinions regardless of gender.
I thought back to the few times (I swear just a few times) I cheated on tests in college. I did feel like I didn't do anything that wrong if I didn't get caught. But then again, that didn't involve another human being's feelings.
Maxim magazine recently featured an article giving tips for men (provided by women) on how to cheat and get away with it (opens in new tab). So there is more and more of a sentiment out there: If you don't get caught it's not as bad an offense, or maybe it's not even really cheating. So, why not offer tips to make sure no one gets hurt? What they don't know won't hurt them anyway, right?
The amount of media around us may be numbing our senses to the seriousness of cheating. The public is hungry for news of their favorite celebs (opens in new tab). I wasn't around in the '60s, but did people know for sure at the time that JFK was womanizing? We sure knew in the '90's when President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky had their affair (opens in new tab).
Entertainment, celebrity, sports, and music continue to merge in the news. Tiger Woods' affair was not only covered by ESPN, but news agencies such as CNN picked it up, and entertainment channels like E! covered it (opens in new tab). In addition to different media outlets, there are many vehicles for our friends to comment on these situations: Twitter, Facebook, blogs (written by people like stupid old me) (opens in new tab). Every public figure is fair game to have their personal weaknesses thrown into the media and now, unlike years ago, we can talk back and comment on these stories.
So, perhaps seeing that just about everybody cheats in the news numbs us to the reality and gravity of the offense. I remember when I read a Led Zeppelin book when I was 13, in the days when you didn't hear about every famous person's affair. I was naive, but I was so disappointed when I read about how much the Zeppelin boys cheated while on tour in the United States (opens in new tab). I lost faith in them as people at the time.
Eventually, my innocence faded, and now I joke with my buddies about how cool Led Zeppelin were for their womanizing and partying. People may go through the same change I went through as they are exposed to all of this cheating in the news and in life. They may not think of it as seriously as they used to. I do my best not to cheat , but I've accepted that many, many people cheat (opens in new tab).
So, if the media (or any other factor) softens the cultural stance on cheating, have we gone so far that we can subscribe to the idea that if you don't get caught it's not really cheating? Personally, I can't believe anyone would argue this point. If I steal something from someone and they never notice that it's missing, or don't catch me, is it not stealing?
What is there to stop us, then, from doing bad things if we know we won't get caught? Religiously, some of us believe we'll have to answer to a higher power. Some of us believe that karma could punish us. And some us morally live our lives refraining from doing things we wouldn't want others to do to us (opens in new tab).
I believe "it's not cheating if I don't get caught" is an excuse for people who want to have their cake and eat it too. In essence, if you're not caught cheating, you're still breaking a promise behind someone's back. The majority of us know that remaining faithful is a promise that is a given in serious relationships.
Then again, my buddies and I always ask each other if we'd make out with a certain girl (opens in new tab) and caveat it with "no one will find out." So, maybe people really do believe if something is completely secret, it's not bad because no one is experiencing emotional pain by knowing what's going on.
What are your thoughts on the Maxim article, and do you think that there's any way you can argue that cheating is not really cheating if you don't get caught?
Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/richravens (opens in new tab)
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