Listen up: According to a new study published in Computers in Human Behaviour, all that time posting status updates and photos, and chatting with friends on social media, could destroy your marriage.
To conduct their study, the researchers first looked at data from married individuals collected between 2008 and 2010. They compared divorce rates across 43 states with Facebook penetration—the number of Facebook accounts in each state—divided by the total population. They found that a 20 percent increase in Facebook users in a state could be linked to a 2.18 percent growth in the divorce rate. Even when researchers factored in variables such as employment status, age, and race, the correlation remained constant. While the finding shouldn’t necessarily be “interpreted as a causal effect,” they wrote, it could be a “significant predictor of divorce rates.”
Out of curiousity, I tapped some married friends to see how social media affects their relationships.
“I was unaware of this study, but I will say, my husband and I don’t have Facebook accounts and everything in our relationship is solid in general,”says Renee M, 33, of Totowa, New Jersey. “We have no time to look up long-lost friends or post about what we’re cooking for dinner (who cares that you are cooking Swedish meatballs?). If we had that kind of spare time, we’d rather be out to dinner—and drinks, or doing something with our kids.”
Rachel’s relationship, er, status corresponds with what researchers discovered in a 2011 study about social media use. Researchers studied 1,160 married 18- to 39-year-olds and found that those who declined social media activity reported being 11.4 percent happier in their marriages than heavy users.
Rachel S., 29, of Los Angeles, says that Facebook actually did pose a major problem in her marriage when she caught her husband instant messaging with an old girlfriend from college. “It was really hurtful to me that he would spend time talking to an ex in another freaking state and not with me. I understand the need for me-time, but go for a run or see a movie! Don’t reconnect with an ex online, no matter how innocent you claim it is!”
Rachel says she tiptoed around the issue for as long as she could, but that only made her angry and distant. When her husband confronted her, she broke down and revealed she knew he had been connecting with an ex. That’s when the couple shut their Facebook accounts down and instead created a duel account. “We wanted to keep up with family and friends and post photos of our kids,” says Rachel. “My husband saw how upset I was and it was his idea to share an account.”
Thumbs up to Rachel’s husband for nipping this in the bud and respecting his wife—especially since researchers in the lastest study found that the divorce rate is up 2 percent—a direct result of couples who are on Facebook, let alone any social media outlet.
Based on the above anecdotes and studies I think it’s safe to say that your marriage will not benefit from excessive social media use, but if you can’t give up your newsfeed, it’s best to be honest and open with your spouse!