It goes without saying: it must suck to be an Adam Levine fan right about now.

It’s been months since the lead singer of legendary pop rock band Maroon 5 was exposed for cheating on his wife Behati Prinsloo, and the internet has yet to forgive him. Truth be told, it’s not looking great for Levine; with floods of incriminating screenshots now floating around the greater half of social media, the definitive consensus is that he’s finished for good.

It’s interesting to note, however, that the scandal has been relatively entirely digital — not to get too analytical over pop culture drama, of course. Much of what’s been speculated, rumoured, and claimed is thus far unconfirmed, ranging from whether or not he really was in a year-long relationship and how many women he’s gone after — the “real stuff.” 

Unlike 2022’s other large marital mishap of the year, there is no evidence Levine has been in physical contact with any of these women, no hardline proof that catches him in the act with an engaged employee — Mr. Fulmer, are you reading this? No, what we know has been based entirely on text messages, Instagram Direct Messages (DMs), and the Tinder Escapades. 

Adam Levine and the online affair

In some manner, Levine’s scandal gives a nod to the technological way adultery controversies have evolved in the modern age. After all, such a fall from grace by way of TikTok and Instagram DM histories would’ve been highly unlikely two decades ago, to say the least.

It’s become shockingly apparent in recent years that the modern rendezvous with ‘The Other Person’ is no longer limited to late-night escapes under the shadows of a back alley street lamp or a quiet shameful date disguised behind ‘working late’ excuses to your significant other. In the last 25 years, the internet has made it so that people are able to much, much more conveniently and covertly look the other way — dating apps, messaging, sexting.

Yet, among all this, the question has been raised: does this really count as cheating?

As far as we know, Levine’s affair was conducted fully through the screen, made up of zero physical contact. Thus, the argument has been made, for him and countless others, that this isn’t true cheating. Without any actual sexual contact or intercourse, it’s supposedly hard to quantify whether a few text messages constitute infidelity. Sure, it’s mentally sickening, and perhaps it’s “emotionally unloyal” to praise someone else. But hey, nothing was actually ordered off the menu. 

Love, loyalty, and the digital age

Maybe I’m a little naive for this, but nothing has ever made less sense. The idea that a line exists between physical and emotional intimacy, and that it needs to be distinguished, is pure bullshit. In any given relationship, an act of love goes both ways — what feeds into your feelings will ultimately seep into physical attraction, and vice versa. Intimacy extends far beyond just the intertwining of arms and legs; it is the talking and the laughing, the unspoken boundaries that a relationship lines out. Talking, as passive as it may be, is still a wrench in the system.

Then there’s the issue of trust and loyalty. Entering a monogamous relationship inherently entails the binding of oneself to one — and only one — other individual in all acts of love and affection. It’s a mutual, yet unofficial, contract predicated entirely on trust. When that singular binding agent is lost, it all falls apart — and it certainly doesn’t only take sex to do that. Loyalty encompasses a dedication in name, body, and mind. Such so-called “emotional” cheating is just as devastating to trust as physical cheating, and any idea otherwise is no more than an excuse to evade responsibility.

Of course, the rules of cheating differ for everyone; what may count as a violation for one relationship is a Saturday night swinger for another. Maybe you’re okay with them chatting up the strangers in their requests box, or maybe you refuse to let them even go near Kendall Jenner’s Instagram. The important thing is the boundaries you have set with each other, digital or not, and all — even the slightest — things they might do that cross them. The bottom line: to each their own lovers, cyber infidelity is still infidelity.

But hey, that’s just me. What would I know about the life of an adulterer? Maybe I should ask my cousin’s ex-boyfriend next time. 

Isabella Liu is a second-year student at Victoria College studying public policy and international relations. She is an associate comment editor at The Varsity.