As our lives and relationships are increasingly played out on the slippery world of social media and dating apps, so our technologies are racing to catch up, inventing and tailoring their tools to meet our contemporary needs. Or do they? Perhaps, new technologies are shaping our relationships and selves in new ways that feel immoral, aggressive and cold; in ways where communication, that is, between real, flesh and blood speaking subjects, falters and loses any importance in the face of something marketed as more true and real. What this is, is the new presence of anti-cheating apps such as SwipeBuster, FlexiSPY and mSPY that help to track your loved ones’ texts and Tinder swipes so you can finally know the truth. Like Bubble and Grindr, Tinder is a dating and social discovery service application that helps you locate “interesting people nearby”. One of its advertising slogans stresses how Tinder is “like real life, but better.” This kind of technology is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it feeds the mentality of hookup culture, encouraging infidelity and promiscuousness by facilitating casual encounters. On the other hand, it follows that it can feed on this gluttonous and unending desire for more partners by creating applications that appear to help uncover such duplicitous behaviour. 

The Apps: Which are they and how do they work?

SwipeBuster, or as it was initially named “Tinder Buster”, is an online tool that can: “Find out if people you know are using Tinder, see their full Tinder profile, and know exactly when they last swiped! Bust them now!” Released this year, the website lets you perform searches (three searches cost $4.99, £3.65) on people that you may know—spy on them—so you can tell if they are cheating on you. By adding your loved one’s name, age, gender and location the service will use data from Tinder’s Application Interface Programming (API), a public database with their users’ information, to find people that match your criteria and show when they last used Tinder. One’s personal data is up for sale, while another is buying into the illusion of security in an interconnected world that makes real human relationships more fragile.

FlexiSPY is a mobile monitoring software compatible with Android, iPhone and iPad that can spy on mobiles, cellphones and tablets and monitor digital and audio communications. With FlexiSpy you can spy on your family members or your employees at work, track phones, bug rooms, spy on Facebook, Skype, Viber and other instant messaging platforms, record live phone call conversations, as well as crack passwords for various mobile devices. A premium subscription is $68-149 (£45.76-100.27)—After Brexit, 24/6/2016, with the exchange rate of 1 GBP = 1.367669 USD, $68 is now £49.72—a month, while an extreme one costs $199 (yesterday £133.91, today is £145.50) for 3 months and $349 (yesterday £234.86, today £255.18) for 12 months. 

mSPY helps you track and control activity on smartphones and computers. From the safety of your home to the security of your company, this software can help surveil phone and online activity. In case you were wondering, the device is perfectly legal and has endorsements by The Huffington Post, Forbes, Fox News, Daily Mail and CNN among others. The basic subscription is €26.99 (yesterday 23/6/2016 was £20.68, compared to yesterday, today with the current exchange rate of 1 EUR = 0.807624 GBP, €26.99 is £21.80) a month, a premium €59.99 (£45.97, today £48.45), and a bundle kit €75.99 (£58.23, today €61.37) a month.

mCouple is developed by mSPY and is a mobile tracker app that can help you “Get remote access to each other’s phone. Avoid guessing games and protect your loved one from any harm”. You can share your location and always know where your other half is, access each other’s phone book and call logs, and read each other’s Facebook messages and chats. While the app is free, users have to purchase a $39 (£26.24, today £28.53) subscription to be able to use it. 

Spying à la James Bond: For Your Eyes Only

With reality shows such as Cheaters playing on TV, the availability of spy gadgets in the market, and lack of communication between couples, many people decide not to rely on their senses but on this gamut of surveillance devices and apps to clear the air: smoke detector hidden camera, peephole reverser, snake cam, Spector Pro Computer Surveillance Software, Landline Telephone Recorder, KeyShark USB Keylogger, Key Fob Voice Activated Recorder, iPod Docking Station Hidden Camera, Tracking Key GPS Logger, and StealthGenie Mobile Spy Software. These are some of the plethora of software and devices available to the angry or suspicious lover. If you happen to be a victim to consuming passions or may get caught red handed, maybe you should invest in a trench coat and find yourself a pseudonym.

The technology gets even crazier when you stumble upon the smart mattress whose 24 ultrasonic motion sensors can detect if your other half has been unfaithful. Meet the “Smarttress”: made by Spanish mattress company Durmet, this mattress has a woven detection system and is “The very first mattress that makes your body relax by night and your mind by day, when you're not at home.” The mattress can send you an alert on your mobile whenever your mattress is suspiciously used. But, if you do get that mobile alert, at least the company offers some guarantee: “If your partner isn’t faithful, at least your mattress is.” A double-bed size Smarttress costs around £1,200 ($1,780, today $1.640).

While such apps might offer some relief and security, this appears to be momentary, while in the long term, paranoia and insecurity abound. Depending on devices to tell us what is real, when our own logic and emotion become defunct, is something that affects our human connections. While more and more we depend on consumer products to define our lives, the question lies in whether we are still capable to shape our own worlds and relationships beyond the seriality of products, superficial relationships, and never-ending enjoyment for the new. In other words, are we merely unified by our products and practices, constrained by algorithms and screen statistics, or directed by our emotional, intuitive and intellectual capacities?