According to Gian Ettore Gassani, the president of the Italian Association of Matrimonial Lawyers, 40% of divorce cases that cite adultery in Italy rely on WhatsApp messages sent between unfaithful spouses and their lovers as evidence of infidelity.
The proliferation of instant messaging services has made it easier for unfaithful husbands and wives to conduct affairs. As Gassani pointed out “social media has boosted betrayal in Italy by making it easier, first through texting, then Facebook, and now WhatsApp, which is being used widely and has encouraged the return of the Latin lover”.
The 'latin lovers' have certainly been busy, with WhatsApp helping some particularly enthusiastic philanderers maintaining three or four relationships at once.
Although WhatsApp has made it easier for cheating partners to have affairs, it has also made it easier for them to be caught, with careless lovers being found out by their spouse discovering their WhatsApp messages. As Gassani warned, "spouses often become suspicious when they hear the beep of an incoming message.”
It looks like enamoured lovers are no longer scaling the sides of buildings to drop off chocolates to the subjects of their desires, but rather popping into another room to sneakily send off a few incriminating messages instead.
Technology that's driven us apart
WhatsApp might be driving a wedge between Italian marriages, but it's not the first bit of tech that's caused marital strife.
In 2011 a survey of British lawyers found that a third of divorce cases in the UK cited Facebook messages as evidence of adultery.
In 2013 a study published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that even if spouses were not having an affair, excessive use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace could cause marital problems. By checking websites more than once an hour they could experience “Facebook-induced jealousy” from their partners.
Last year researches found that constantly checking your smartphone for messages was an addiction that like other drugs could ruin relationships, with young adults who spend up to seven hours a day interacting with their phone saying that their behaviour could spill over into a problem.