Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Findings

facebook-facebook

Facebook, home wrecker. (Photo: Northfoto/Shutterstock)

Facebook, Twitter Usage Linked to Higher Divorce Rates

• May 02, 2014 • 4:00 AM

Facebook, home wrecker. (Photo: Northfoto/Shutterstock)

New research finds a correlation between marital dissatisfaction and social media usage.

We all know the warning signs of a couple in trouble. Unrealistic expectations. Poor communication. A mutual tendency to blame and shame.

Newly published research adds another red-flag behavior to that list: Facebook usage.

A team of researchers reports finding a robust correlation between using social network sites, experiencing a troubled relationship, and thinking about divorce. Using empirical evidence to confirm anecdotal reports, it finds this same troubling pattern using two different sets of data.

Writing in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, the researchers are quick to note it’s unclear whether Facebook usage leads to more unhappy marriages, or whether unhappy spouses spend more time on Facebook. Indeed, they write, both may be true.

Excessive use of social networking sites could leave ignored spouses feeling abandoned. If people are using such sites to follow former lovers—or people who could conceivably turn into romantic partners—such behavior “may evoke feelings of jealousy.”

“It may seem surprising that a Facebook profile, a relatively small factor compared to other drivers of human behavior, could have a significant statistical relationship with divorce rates and marital satisfaction,” write Sebastian Valenzuela and Daniel Halpern of the Catholic University of Chile and James Katz of Boston University. “It nonetheless seems to be the case.”

The researchers looked at state-level data from 2008 through 2010, comparing divorce rates with Facebook penetration. (The total number of Facebook accounts in each state was divided by the total population.)

They found “a 20 percent annual increase in the share of a state’s population with a Facebook account is associated with a 2.18 percent increase in the divorce rate.” That relationship remained robust after taking into account such variables as income, unemployment, and the statewide rate of Internet access.

In addition, the researchers examined data from 1,160 married people collected as part of a 2011-12 survey taken by the University of Texas at Austin. Participants responded to a series of statements designed to measure the quality of their romantic relationship, and revealed whether they had thought about leaving their spouse at any point during the previous year.

Separately, they reported the amount of time they spend during a typical weekday on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace.

Participants who spent more time on online social networks reported, on average, lower levels of marital happiness. In addition, the researchers write, heavier use of social networking sites was “a strong, positive predictor” of thinking about walking away from one’s marriage.

As noted earlier, this relationship has two possible explanations—and they’re not mutually exclusive. The researchers note that some people turn to online social networks for emotional support in difficult times—say, when they’re stuck in a bad marriage, or attempting to navigate the strange world of being newly single.

On the other hand, they write, there are many reasons why Facebook usage could harm marriages. Excessive use of social networking sites could leave ignored spouses feeling abandoned. If people are using such sites to follow former lovers—or people who could conceivably turn into romantic partners—such behavior “may evoke feelings of jealousy,” they note.

“The ‘mutual’ and ‘suggested friends’ features may also facilitate potential cheating,” the researchers add, “since users can search through their friends’ friends to find someone in whom they may be interested.”

So if you’re a married person who is spending more time with your virtual friends than your flesh-and-blood spouse, be aware that your marriage may be at risk. Perhaps too many “likes” can imperil love.

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

More From Tom Jacobs

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 24 • 2:00 AM

Congratulations, Your City Is Dying!

Don’t take population numbers at face value.


October 23 • 4:00 PM

Of Course Marijuana Addiction Exists

The polarized legalization debate leads to exaggerated claims and denials about pot’s potential harms. The truth lies somewhere in between.


October 23 • 2:00 PM

American Companies Are Getting Way Too Cozy With the National Security Agency

Newly released documents describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as undercover operatives.


October 23 • 12:00 PM

The Man Who’s Quantifying New York City

Noah Davis talks to the proprietor of I Quant NY. His methodology: a little something called “addition.”


October 23 • 11:02 AM

Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.


October 23 • 10:00 AM

The Psychology of Bribery and Corruption

An FBI agent offered up confidential information about a political operative’s enemy in exchange for cash—and they both got caught. What were they thinking?


October 23 • 8:00 AM

Ebola News Gives Me a Guilty Thrill. Am I Crazy?

What it means to feel a little excited about the prospect of a horrific event.


October 23 • 7:04 AM

Why Don’t Men Read Romance Novels?

A lot of men just don’t read fiction, and if they do, structural misogyny drives them away from the genre.


October 23 • 6:00 AM

Why Do Americans Pray?

It depends on how you ask.


October 23 • 4:00 AM

Musicians Are Better Multitaskers

New research from Canada finds trained musicians more efficiently switch from one mental task to another.


October 22 • 4:00 PM

The Last Thing the Women’s Movement Needs Is a Heroic Male Takeover

Is the United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign helping feminism?


October 22 • 2:00 PM

Turning Public Education Into Private Profits

Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four non-profit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.


October 22 • 12:00 PM

Will the End of a Tax Loophole Kill Off Irish Business and Force Google and Apple to Pay Up?

U.S. technology giants have constructed international offices in Dublin in order to take advantage of favorable tax policies that are now changing. But Ireland might have enough other draws to keep them there even when costs climb.


October 22 • 10:00 AM

Veterans in the Ivory Tower

Why there aren’t enough veterans at America’s top schools—and what some people are trying to do to change that.


October 22 • 8:00 AM

Our Language Prejudices Don’t Make No Sense

We should embrace the fact that there’s no single recipe for English. Making fun of people for replacing “ask” with “aks,” or for frequently using double negatives just makes you look like the unsophisticated one.


October 22 • 7:04 AM

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.


October 22 • 6:00 AM

How We Form Our Routines

Whether it’s a morning cup of coffee or a glass of warm milk before bed, we all have our habitual processions. The way they become engrained, though, varies from person to person.


October 22 • 4:00 AM

For Preschoolers, Spite and Smarts Go Together

New research from Germany finds greater cognitive skills are associated with more spiteful behavior in children.


October 21 • 4:00 PM

Why the Number of Reported Sexual Offenses Is Skyrocketing at Occidental College

When you make it easier to report assault, people will come forward.


October 21 • 2:00 PM

Private Donors Are Supplying Spy Gear to Cops Across the Country Without Any Oversight

There’s little public scrutiny when private donors pay to give police controversial technology and weapons. Sometimes, companies are donors to the same foundations that purchase their products for police.


October 21 • 12:00 PM

How Clever Do You Think Your Dog Is?

Maybe as smart as a four-year-old child?


October 21 • 10:00 AM

Converting the Climate Change Non-Believers

When hard science isn’t enough, what can be done?



October 21 • 8:00 AM

Education Policy Is Stuck in the Manufacturing Age

Refining our policies and teaching social and emotional skills will help us to generate sustained prosperity.


October 21 • 7:13 AM

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you’ve (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.


Follow us


Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you've (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.