Excessive Facebook use may spur emotional and physical cheating,
breakups or divorce, according to a study to be published in the Journal of
Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.
Facebook and other social websites and apps have revolutionized the way people create and maintain relationships. But the ease in communication has also come with negative side effects, said Russell Clayton, a journalism doctoral student at the University of Missouri.
Similar studies have found that "partner surveillance" causes anxiety and remaining friends with a former flame delays the healing process, Clayton said.
"Social networks have become the third wheel of relationships," Clayton said. "With anything, if you use it the wrong way or if you use it too much, that has consequences for relationships."
Some 205 Facebook users ages 18 to 82 completed a 16-question online survey that asked questions such as how often they felt jealous when someone of the opposite sex posted comments or photos on their significant others' wall.
The date the study will be published still has not been determined.
"Facebook-induced jealousy may lead to arguments concerning past partners," Clayton said in a news release. "Our study found that excessive Facebook users are more likely to connect or reconnect with other Facebook users, including previous partners, which may lead to emotional and physical cheating."
But these findings held true only for couples whose relationships were three years old or younger because the "relationships are not fully matured," Clayton said. He surmised that couples in long-term relationships may not use Facebook as often or have gotten to the point where updates and wall postings aren't threatening.
Facebook users in the greater Los Angeles area echoed Clayton's results with first-hand experiences.
Kristina Turonyte, 22, said she uses the social networking website and app at least 10 times a day to keep in touch with her 1,400 friends. Although Facebook has not injected theatrics into her current relationship, it was the catalyst that ended her previous one, she said.
The couple were an item for nearly three years and were living together in Hong Kong when Turonyte asked her then-boyfriend not to talk to his ex-girlfriend anymore. But he said they were just friends.
One day he left his Facebook profile open and walked away from the computer. Turonyte saw a private message, and that was the beginning of the end.
"I read that he was making appointments to meet his ex- girlfriend," said Turonyte, from Hollywood. "We broke up a month after that. It's not right if he wants to meet with her, especially since he didn't tell me about it himself."
Turonyte said she was concerned some funny business would happen during her then-boyfriend's business trip to Australia. She didn't want to play the fool in Hong Kong, she said.
Then there is Azad Cheikosman, 24, who said his previous girlfriends were annoyed that he tuned into Facebook a few times every hour.
"It would deter me from paying attention to them, and they'd ask 'Why are you always on your phone?'" said Cheikosman, a South Pasadena resident.
But as a musician in an indie rock band, he said being on Facebook is part of the job description.
When he's not working, he sometimes checks his girlfriend's profile to see who she's hanging out with, he said.
"I trust her," he said. "But if you're in a relationship, you want to know who that other guy is -- if he's an ex-boyfriend or just a friend."
Kelynn Harris, 19, got rid of her Facebook account in 2010 when her friend's girlfriend posted unsavory attacks on Harris' wall.
"It's too much drama. People do too much talking," Harris said. "They start problems on Facebook with their statuses."
Basically, this girlfriend wasn't comfortable with the communication between Harris and her friend, whom Harris has known since the first grade. The exchanges might have seemed flirtatious, but we are just close friends, Harris said.
Although this study is really an appetizer for more in-depth and expansive studies, Clayton said people have an easy solution if they find that Facebook is creating conflict in their romantic relationships: Cut back usage.
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