While it may seem farfetched to say that social media is the direct cause of broken relationships, according to a 2013 study published in the published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, individuals who spend more time on Facebook are more likely to “experience Facebook–related conflict with their romantic partners,” which could then lead to a divorce.
Speaking with Vox, divorce attorney James J. Sexton notes that social media is a huge factor in a growing number of divorces and separations, adding that he can’t remember a case where social media was not the cause or, at the very least, implicated in some way. The pattern with social media, he says, is consistent: spouses maintain affairs on sites like Facebook or communicate with people they know they shouldn’t.
In other words, Sexton believes that social media has made infidelity easier than ever.
But there are other, subtler, reasons why social media can be dangerous to marriages.
Jealousy and Anger
If you’re in a relationship, you’ve probably, at some point, felt jealous about your partner’s behavior on social media, whether it’s because of the content they ‘like’ on Facebook or Instagram, or their interactions with other people.
And for what it’s worth, your suspicions may not be completely unreasonable, as one survey notes that one in ten adults admits to hiding messages from their partners. Furthermore, eight percent of adults in relationships admit to keeping a secret social media account.
These threats are so real that 14 percent of adults scour their significant other’s social media profiles for signs of impropriety and other questionable behavior.
Excessive Facebook Use
But it’s not just what people do on social media that causes conflict in relationships, it’s also how much time they spend online. More and more people are reporting that their partner’s excessive time spent on social media has negatively affected their romantic relationships.
A study, published in Computers in Human Behavior 22, compared divorce rates between states to Facebook accounts per capita and found a connection between time spent on the social networking site and a decline in marriage quality. In fact, a 20 percent increase in time spent on Facebook over a year was associated with a 2.18 percent to 4.32 percent increase of divorce rates.
The study’s model derived from the individual survey results also predicts that people who avoid social media are up to 11 percent happier in their marriages than people who are on social media all the time.
Social Media Only Complicates Existing Problems
Others, however, argue that social media isn’t so much the cause of separations, as it as a platform that amplifies known issues in marriage, such as distrust, infidelity, and jealousy among others.