The effects of social media use (and misuse) on marriage and relationships
Social media has changed the way we meet and interact with each other. It provides a platform to learn more about people you associate with. This can be a problem, however, when it comes to romantic relationships. Research shows that increased usage of social media may lead to marital problems, infidelity, and divorce.
“You spend too much time on Facebook”
It’s not only what a person does on social media, but also how much time they spend doing it that can create conflict. Excessive time spent on social media has been shown to negatively impact romantic relationships.
A recent study, published in Computers in Human Behavior, compared state-by-state divorce rates to per-capita Facebook accounts. The study found a link between social media use and decreased marriage quality in every model analyzed. It also found that a 20% annual increase in Facebook enrollment was associated with a 2.18% to 4.32% increase in divorce rates. The study’s model from the individual survey results predicts that people that do not use social media are 11% happier in their marriages than people that are regularly use social media.
Suspicious behavior, snooping, and jealousy
Social media provides easy access for a jealous or suspicious spouse to seek out information about the interactions of a significant other. Whether suspicions are founded or unfounded, people often feel uneasy about their relationship after discovering something on their partner’s Facebook account. This often leads to increased monitoring, jealousy, and conflict in a relationship. In fact, researchers have found that the more a person examines their partner’s Facebook activity, the more that person reports jealousy and mistrust.
Social media and infidelity
Unfortunately, suspicions about a partner’s social media interactions are often warranted. One in ten adults admits to hiding messages and posts from their significant other. Eight percent of adults in relationships admit to having secret accounts. And one in three divorces now start as online affairs.
With smartphones and social media apps, it’s never been easier for dissatisfied spouses to look for a new relationship, get in contact with an ex, or seek out a fling. A whopping 30% of Tinder users are married. Sites like AshleyMadison.com even cater to married people looking for affairs – over 130 million people worldwide visit Ashley Madison each month.
It’s not all bad news, though…
More than a third of U.S. marriages now begin online through dating sites and social media networks. Those marriages are lasting longer on average than those that begin offline.
Couples are also starting to understand the impact of social media use on relationships and work to limit time spent on Facebook and be more open in their online activities. Some couples are even creating social media “prenups” – guidelines within a prenuptial agreement for acceptable online behavior, such as not friending exes and not sharing private information or photos without permission.