The hours you spend innocently Facebook stalking your significant others or crushes may not be as harmless as you think. Deleting (or rather deactivating) your Facebook account can be the key to a more healthy relationship, according to a study from the University of Guelph. The now-public social networking phenomenon has revolutionized the way people communicate, but it may also be promoting jealousy when it comes to relationships.
Facebook exposes us to more triggers of jealousy, said the author behind the study Ph.D. Amy Muise, a post-doctoral fellow of the University of Toronto's Department of Psychology. So if somebody posts on a partner's wall and you don't know them, it can trigger jealousy and you may become curious about your partner's relationship with that person.
Although the survey was conducted in 2009, the correlation between Facebook and jealousy between partners remains problematic, if not even more so. Facebook has a tendency to update its layout and user interface, usually making it even more convenient to keep tabs on your friends, family and partners.
I still think that people are accessing information about their romantic partners and that's triggering jealousy, Muise added. I know some people have chosen to deactivate their accounts for whatever reason, but I feel like that's not a common response. As much as there are negative connotations to Facebook, it can be very hard to delete completely.
The study found that there was a correlation between time spent on Facebook and jealousy-related feelings and behaviors experienced on the website. Part of the problem lies in the fact that content posted on the social site can be interpreted in a variety of ways given its lack of context.
I just think that people need to talk with their partners about things that are happening on Facebook, said Muise. I mean there are occasions where things might be happening that cross the boundaries of your relationship, but I think more often it's that people are misinterpreting things.
In addition to the abundance of information, including with whom your partner is digitally interacting and when, Facebook can influence the amount of pressure on a couple in terms of commitment. The relationship status feature adds the element of publicity, according to Director of Nassau Guidance and Counseling Kathleen Dwyer Blair, who has been practicing psychology and relationship therapy for 30 years.
Some people put more emphasis on what the status is, said Blair. Depending on how important it is to that person, they're going to take it as the person isn't willing to commit. There's that kind of embarrassment or shame that someone might feel about that. Once it's put out there it can add that dimension.
The new age of Internet socialization makes it easier for people who wouldn't cheat sexually to develop emotionally unfaithful relationships. According to Blair, in the last two years there has been an increase in the number of couples experiencing infidelity problems related to Facebook, online chat rooms, or emailing.
What's so fascinating is that there really is no age limit anymore, she said. People in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, are now on Facebook, and it kind of makes me smile. But for those who are not comfortable going into a bar and may not connect face-to-face, there's this way of being intimate but also not intimate at the same time.
But spending time on Facebook doesn't automatically make one jealous or unfaithful--usually personality traits from the offline world translate digitally.
How jealous I am in my life is correlated with how jealous I am on Facebook, said Muise. Those things aren't two separate entities.
Although social media can enhance jealous tendencies, there are positives to consider along with the negatives. Facebook can allow those that have issues in social situations to interact on a new level.
There's something about the disconnect that helps people connect in a way, said Blair. They're not looking into someone's eyes, and that sometimes makes it more comfortable to be open.