Is Facebook Ruling Our Relationships?

By Katie Tandy | Small Business

Let’s be honest – everybody loves a lil’ Facebook “stalking” now and again. In fact, when you’re newly dating someone – or even thinking about asking them out/accepting their advances – one of the first things we all do is check their online profiles…

Are they partiers? Flirts? Intellectuals? What sort of things do they post? Photos? Articles? Snarky comments? You can tell quite a bit about someone’s personality and lifestyle from just a few days of activity on Facebook.

It’s a wonderland of personal information, publicly shared. Sounds pretty great, right? Sort of. Like so many things in this tricky journey we call life, it’s a little more complicated than that.

‘Like’ Your Way to Heartbreak

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Illustration credit: Mashable

In a June 2013 study, Cheating, Breakup, and Divorce: Is Facebook Use to Blame?, published by Russell Clayton (a doctoral student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism), it seems that a constant flurry of Facebook activity can be downright damaging to relationships.

Surveying users from 18-82 (hurray for all those senior citizens kicking ass on the Interwebs by the way), Clayton asked his participants to describe how often they used the Social Network and how much conflict had arisen between them and their current/former partners, lovers, spouses…you get the idea.

Although Facebook is a great way to learn about someone, excessive Facebook use may be damaging to newer romantic relationships. Cutting back to moderate, healthy levels of Facebook usage could help reduce conflict, particularly for newer couples who are still learning about each other. – Russell Clayton

Clayton explains that research has shown that the more a person in a romantic relationship cruises the Facebook surf, the more they’ll monitor their partner’s activities…which, inevitably leads to feelings of jealousy. “He ‘liked’ that picture of his ex in a bikini?!” “She wrote ‘XO’ at the end of her “Happy Birthday message – what’s that about?”

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“Facebook-induced jealousy” could not only lead to arguments about past partners, but continue to foster intimacy between exes, which could lead to emotional and physical (gasp!) cheating, Clayton explains.

The Social Silver Lining

The good news? “New” couples – those together less than 3 years – are the only ones truly at risk. So if you’ve cozied up with monogamy for more than 1,095 days, chances are you’ve forged enough trust to whether any social storm that could arise.

The Danger of Over-Sharing

Is Facebook Ruling Our Relationships? image mashable whispering socialIs Facebook Ruling Our Relationships?

Illustration credit: Mashable

A senior engineer at Facebook and a computer scientist at Cornell University – Lars Backstrom and Jon Kleinberg – have paired up to explore the dialogue between Facebook and relationships as well.

In their new study, Romantic Partnerships and the Dispersion of Social Ties: A Network Analysis of Relationship Status on Facebook, the duo discovered that “embeddedness” – the total number of mutual friends two people share – is surprisingly a low indicator of romantic relationships…and success.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the numbers don’t lie – those people with a more “dispersed network,” meaning less overlap in friends, both virtual and real, leads to more longevity.

A declared couple without a high dispersion on the site are 50 percent more likely to break up over the next two months than a couple with a high dispersion, the researchers discovered when tracking the users every two months for two years.

Uh oh. Someone needs to let these couples know.

Our advice? Foster independence; you can share all your food and even your bank account and bed…but maybe keep some of your friends to yourself.

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