Social Media and Relationships

Face of wrecking ball

mX News, Thursday September 11, 2014

by Kelly Scott

Constant arguing and a dwindling sex life might be usual signs a relationship is shutting down, but a new study has named Facebook as a home wrecker. Research by Boston University found social media users were more likely to be changing their relationship status to “single” as a result of using the site. It discovered in each US state, for every 20 per cent increase in Facebook users there was a 2.18 per cent rise in the divorce rate.

But Brisbane City Psychologists’ Dr Tracey Hunter said frequent social media use was more a symptom of relationship problems rather than a cause. “It would be somewhat inaccurate to say that social media causes divorce, but rather that people who are already experiencing disconnection or lack of intimacy within their relationship are more likely to turn more frequently to social media,” Hunter said. She said it could be a way to distract from the distance in a relationship or as a way to have intimacy needs partially met. “(It) has the potential to make other romantic options seem more appealing, since people can project a more positively skewed image of themselves online, versus the real- life partner – warts and all.”

But even if a partner is using social media appropriately, excessive use can have a negative impact. “A lot of my clients who are complaining about a lack of intimacy with their partner also complain to me about their partner always being on Facebook et cetera even when they are together. “Or that they found messages in their partner’s inbox to/from an unknown member of the opposite sex which concerned them.”

QUT counselling lecturer Paul Simmons said the report wasn’t a clear indication of whether Facebook caused relationship problems or whether it was just more likely those in distressed relationships were more likely to use it.