Is Facebook a factor in your divorce? You’re not alone. According to new research from the University of Missouri, individuals who self-report “excessively” using Facebook are far more likely to experience conflict with their romantic partners, which then may cause negative relationship outcomes including emotional and physical cheating, breakup, and divorce. To translate this into Facebook speak? Too much time on the social network ups the chances your status won’t remain “in a relationship” for very long.
In their study, researchers surveyed Facebook users ages 18 to 82 years old. Participants were asked to describe how often they used Facebook and how much, if any, conflict arose between their current or former partners as a result of Facebook use. Researchers found that high levels of Facebook use among couples significantly predicted Facebook-related conflict, which then significantly predicted negative relationship outcomes such as cheating, breakup, and divorce.
“Previous research has shown that the more a person in a romantic relationship uses Facebook, the more likely they are to monitor their partner’s Facebook activity more stringently, which can lead to feelings of jealousy,” notes Russell Clayton, a doctoral student in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, via a university press release. “Facebook-induced jealousy may lead to arguments concerning past partners. Also, our study found that excessive Facebook users are more likely to connect or reconnect with other Facebook users, including previous partners, which may lead to emotional and physical cheating.”
However, the length of the relationship in question matters. Couples who have maintained their relationship for several years, or even decades, seem better able to weather problems arising from social media use, compared to couples in newer relationships.
“These findings held only for couples who had been in relationships of three years or less,” says Clayton. “This suggests that Facebook may be a threat to relationships that are not fully matured. On the other hand, participants who have been in relationships for longer than three years may not use Facebook as often, or may have more matured relationships, and therefore Facebook use may not be a threat or concern.”
When Facebook is the cause for a relationship breakdown, whether use of the social network can be traced to cheating or some other negative activity, it is important to let your divorce lawyer know that social media played a role. As we have written about previously, using social media and other electronic means, including texts and emails, as evidence in divorce, is now commonplace. Any photos, status updates, or questionable messages could be used as part of child custody negotiations, or as a clue to finding hidden assets.
For further reading on social media use and divorce, please see the follow blog posts:
– CBS 2 TV: The New Social Face of Divorce (Watch WLG’s Bari Weinberger talk about social media use and divorce as part of a special news segment on CBS 2)