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Social Media’s Role in Declining Relationships

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2021 | Family Law

Clients are including problems related to social media as a cause of their divorce.[1]  In fact, Studies show correlation between increased social media use and divorce or break-ups.[2] These problems are usually about jealousy, infidelity, privacy, and excessive social media usage.

Jealousy and Infidelity.

Whether justified or not, many people are jealous of their spouse’s social media use and become concerned about possible infidelity.

Even if a spouse isn’t explicitly searching for a new partner on dating websites, there is an increase in using social media to keep tabs on and communicate with “back burners,” which are individuals we consider potential future romantic or sexual partners.[3] “Back burners” can be subconscious; without realizing, the former co-worker you have been chatting with for the last few months has become your closest confidant.

Confusion about what constitutes “cheating”

Before the onslaught of social media sites, cheating and inappropriate flirting were easier for spouses to define; most committed couples discuss when a line is crossed. However, it is still relatively uncommon for couples to discuss what is okay on social media.

While many people would agree that creating a profile on OkCupid without permission from your spouse crosses a line, what about making a fake profile on Facebook? Or reconnecting with an ex and reminiscing about good times together? Or even just posting a cute photo of yourself?

A 2018 blog post titled “20 Social Media Habits That Are Technically Cheating” claims that all aforementioned activities are forms of “cheating”.[4] Whether or not you agree, many people have different standards and expectations for how our significant others act on social media, and we don’t always communicate about that.

Privacy Violations and Excess Social Media Use

Couples have also reported feeling neglected due to their significant other’s social media use or betrayed if their spouse is oversharing personal details online.

Couples don’t always use social media at the same rate; this can lead to disagreements about how much is posted and what is appropriate to post. Disagreements about privacy can stem from commonly posted events, like a bad medical diagnosis, frustrations about a fight, or even a photo of the kids. We see these posts all the time, but it’s understandable why some people would not want this information posted.

This is not an attempt to label social media as the ultimate destroyer of marriages. It is usually a million little things that lead to divorce; not a single solitary facebook post. Furthermore, many people have cited texting, cell phones, and social media as helpful communication tools or sharing accounts to maintain a social network as a couple.[5]

[1] See Clayton R, Nagurney A, Smith J. Cheating, breakup, and divorce: is Facebook use to blame? Cyberpsychology, behavior, & Social Networking 2013; 16:717-20. See also Clayton, R. The Third Wheel: The Impact of Twitter Use on Relationship Infidelity and Divorce. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 2014; 17; 425-430.

[2] See Sebastian Valenzuela, Daniel Halpern, James E. Katz, Social Network Sites, Marriage well-being, and divorce: Survey and state level evidence from the United States, 36 Computers in human Behavior 94 (2014).

[3] See Jayson L. Dibble & Michelle Drouin, Using modern technology to keep in touch with back burners: an investment model analysis, 34 Computers in Human Behavior 96 (2014)