I think that online affairs are a lot more common than people admit to, but many don't feel that having an online affair is really ''cheating.'' To me, it is. On this forum, I've read quite a few threads where betrayed spouses were basically betrayed by their wayward spouses having online affairs. Nothing physical happened, but the BS still considered it to be cheating. It doesn't happen over night though, so if you are married or in a serious relationship and are spending a lot of time privately talking to people from the opposite sex whether it's on social media, forums, etc, be careful. That's how affairs start.
Thought this was worth sharing here. 9 Signs You are Having an Online Affair
It is really a matter of perspective. One can see something as "cheating" whereas another may not. For example, I have a family member that always said "it doesn't matter where I get my appetite as long as I come home to eat". He felt nothing wrong with looking, fantasizing, daydreaming or whatever as long as he did not touch. I vehemently disagree with this assessment. To me, anything that detracts from a marriage, anything that could potentially damage it, is cheating.
To find stimulation in erotic thoughts about another woman I see as problematic because there will come a time where the thoughts become too familiar, too commonplace and no longer provide the necessary stimulation. Then what? The next obvious step is to "ramp it up a notch". Then what? So you see, to me, this is problematic but to him it was not. He did eventually go on to involving others and he and his wife are still together so perhaps his mindset changed to "it does not matter where I get my appetite as long as I do not eat out too much". I cannot say with certainty since I do not associate with him very much. The point is he sees nothing wrong with his mindset whereas I do.
So then what of online cheating? Can someone be unfaithful with their intellect, their emotions, their desires without physical contact? Well how do we define "physical contact". Is it defined as corporeal contact, physically touching another person's body with a part of your body? Or can we "touch" someone with our words, images, glances that can evoke real physical feelings not only in them but in ourselves as well? I believe we can and I also believe that if these things are done covertly that not only is the spouse being unfaithful but deceitful as well, which is another marriage killer.
So, to me, online "affairs" are in every way as real and as damaging as physical affairs since the intent, desire and effort are all put into it. These ingredients are crucial to a successful marriage when focused on your spouse and just as poisonous to a marriage when not.