Facebook and divorce

There is a growing body of evidence that Facebook use and divorce are somehow connected. And this is not new information. In a 2011 article, one researcher noted that a study found that 32 percent of frequent social media users had thought seriously about divorce, compared to 16 percent who were not heavy social media users. In the same year, researchers in the United Kingdom found that one-third of divorce filings included the word Facebook.

Not surprisingly, Facebook does not believe that these findings are true. However, it makes sense at some level. People whose marriages are going through hard times can rekindle old relationships quickly with the click of a mouse, something that was much more difficult in the pre-Facebook days.

An important distinction to acknowledge is that researchers have found a correlation between Facebook and divorce and not a cause. This means that being on Facebook does not mean that you will become a divorce statistic. However, if you do become divorced, there is a slightly greater likelihood that you are a serious user of Facebook and other social media.

One psychologist has theorized that people who are heavily involved in social media are not paying enough attention to relationships beyond their computer screens. A 2013 study suggested that heavy Facebook use, defined by the study as checking more than once an hour, caused the other spouse to become jealous and prompted him or her to consider alternatives to the current situation – alternatives that included divorce.

The correlation between social media and divorce is strongest among new couples, those with three or fewer years of marriage, according to one researcher. But the correlation is not only between social media and divorce, but between social media and the divorce settlement.

One writer has suggested that social media is a great way to find out about the financial situation of a soon-to-be ex-spouse by monitoring his or her Facebook page. Even if you have been blocked by your spouse, your mutual friends can learn about the trips, the new romantic interest or the expensive car. This can make a difference in how assets are divided in the divorce settlement.

Facebook is not the only villain in the story. The same researcher who conducted the 2013 study of the link between Facebook use and divorce found a similar correlation between divorce and Twitter use. The big difference between Twitter and Facebook and the roles they play in divorce is that Facebook seems to be more of a factor in young relationships. Otherwise, the results were similar.

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What causes the correlation between social media and divorce? The answer to this question is less clear than simply proving the existence of the link between the two. One researcher suggested that excessive social media use is a symptom, not a cause, of a relationship headed for trouble. If this is true, then a troubled marriage will become more troubled if one of the parties uses social media excessively. Conversely, if the marriage is strong, Facebook use may make it even stronger.

This is clearly an issue that will receive more scrutiny in the coming years. Given that the divorce rate is around 50 percent, it makes sense that people would continue to investigate anything that might shed light on the matter.