It's something many of has have suspected: Facebook can negatively influence our romantic relationships. I set out to study if there was any truth to this hunch and discovered some interesting results. I found that the experience of Facebook-related conflict between romantic partners, which may stem from the usage of the social network, hampers perceived relationship satisfaction and commitment. Interestingly, the extent of this relationship quality disturbance through Facebook-related conflict depends on the length of the romantic relationship.
My research paper, published in the August issue of Europe's Journal of Psychology, was based on an online survey of 101 Facebook users (from North America, Europe, and South Asia) between 18 to 34 years old, who reported being in a heterosexual romantic relationship.
Previous studies have already demonstrated ties between Facebook usage and partner surveillance, jealousy, cheating and break-ups, including divorce. But how is Facebook use negatively influencing romantic relationships? This new research answers the question.
According to this study, Facebook use may cause conflicts between partners who are experiencing potential uncertainty regarding the stability or future of their relationship. Or, it may induce the emergence of romantic jealousy between partners in the case of a relatively new relationship that is still developing or maturing. This conflict eventually works towards lowering perceived relationship satisfaction. Partners may be inclined to explore relational alternatives or seek emotional support from readily available/approachable potential partners via Facebook, which both reflects on and heightens their decreased commitment towards the relationship. The conflict also lowers the magnitude of perceived love between partners. The extent of this negative influence depends on the length of that particular relationship. With increased relationship length, Facebook-related conflict will decrease and the possibility of negative relationship outcomes will also lessen. That is, as days are passing by the relationship between romantic partners become mature and stable with the lower possibility of Facebook-related conflict occurring.
Practically speaking, if you're embarking on a new relationship, you might do well by facilitating open communication and honest discussion about each other's use of social media before the seeds of suspicion are sown. You might be able to address issues of relational conflict and uncertainty that stem from Facebook-related conflict and nip the problem in the bud.