According to its mission statement, Facebook gives people the power to be more open and connected. Thanks to Facebook, we’re able to share with the world the intimate details of our lives, complete with pictures and videos.
Apparently, some of us have shared too much. While we’re connecting with others on Facebook, we may be disconnecting from the people we love the most.
A recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior linked increased Facebook use to higher divorce rates and a decline in marriage quality.
Is this new marriage vow: Until death, or Facebook, do we part?
To read the full study, go to www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214001563.
According to researchers at Boston University, Facebook use was associated with increasing divorce rates in some states.
Using Census Bureau divorce-rate data, and state-by-state data on Facebook use, the researchers were able to make some general claims about the links between divorce and Facebook use.
Between 2008 and 2010, Facebook use was positively correlated with divorce rates.
Survey results also showed a link between increased Facebook use and marriage- satisfaction issues. For example, increased Facebook use was associated with those who reported lower marriage quality and those who were thinking about separating.
They suggest several reasons for why Facebook may be leading to higher divorce rate and waning marriage quality.
First, they suggest that obsessive Facebook use creates problems for people in social settings such as school and work. This, in turn, leads to problems at home.
Second, they suggest that higher levels of Facebook use could induce feelings of jealousy between partners.
Third, Facebook users are exposed to information about others, and ultimately stumble upon new, attractive partners. For some, a new partner might provide a better life, and lead to divorce.
But like most social scientific studies, few suggestions are offered for fixing the problem. The knee-jerk reaction might be to eliminate Facebook and other social media if you think your marriage is on the rocks.
Eliminating Facebook might actually aggravate the problem.
And should we really blame Facebook? Of course not. Divorce rates have been high for decades.
Facebook connections may be happening in response to failing marriages, not causing the marriage failure. It could be that divorcees are going to Facebook to seek out new partners or to look for social support when things are already bad.
While the connection between the use of social media and divorce rates is important to investigate, it would be rash to say that Facebook causes marriage failures. Instead, we should take actions that would reverse the trend.
Use Facebook and social media to connect to your partner. Send direct messages with sweet nothings. Post a wedding picture on “Throwback Thursday” to declare your love to your online friends.
Remember: Anything that can be used to exacerbate your problems may also be capable of solving them.
~ A version of this column appeared in the Sunday, September 7, 2014 edition of The Vindicator newspaper.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.