In the last decade, Facebook rapidly became the largest social network on the web. As the network continues to grow, large numbers of people log in and interact with old friends and make new ones. There are a lot of social benefits to Facebook that many people enjoy, and where social networking was once a novelty, for millions it has become an integral part of daily living.
In recent years, Facebook has claimed over 1 billion membership, with millions logging into the network daily. Statistically speaking, a good number of those individuals spending daily time on the network are likely married. Married individuals who are actively interacting with members of the opposite sex. How many of these people are cheating on their significant others?
Is Facebook Contributing to Divorce Statistics?
Talking to members of the opposite sex does not constitute infidelity, but crossing lines where Facebook relationships are intentionally hidden from one's spouse can lead to cheating. In modern society, while often hard to pinpoint, divorce rates are frequently placed at around 50 percent. Interestingly, attorneys are increasingly more frequently citing Facebook as a primary contributor. In 2011, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) said 1 in 5 divorce petitions in the U.S. mentioned Facebook. 1 While this statement is old, the correlation between Facebook and divorce is still being studied and there may be some validity in some claims. Not to mention, earlier this year it was reported the AAML said 81 percent of divorce lawyers say they have increases related to social network sites. 2
A study was released in summer 2014 and evidence appears to indicate the network does play a role in increased incidences of divorce. The authors conclude (courtesy via WTOP news):
"The data presented in this study provide evidence that Facebook use is correlated with reduced marital satisfaction and divorce rates." 4
Although, with the study released last summer the authors did also say:
"We don’t know whether Facebook is causing divorce or divorce is causing the use of Facebook."
Either way it seems the network can be linked to divorce and/or infidelity in some shape or form. It either leads people to marital problems or is a source of comfort in the event of divorce. But for some, it does appear to be used as a means of escape from marriage.
Effects of Social Networking on Some Marriages
All marriages, both happy or in trouble, can experience negative effects of Facebook connections. Marriages that already have existing issues are probably more particularly vulnerable, but even happy relationships are not infallible to the temptations Facebook interaction can bring.
Infidelity can stem from new Facebook friendships or old friends from days gone by. People often engage on Facebook in looking up their high school buddies. Sometimes this is out of general interest, but in other instances a person is longing for nostalgia to live the good old days. This frequently includes wondering about that special someone from high school.
Envision a scenario where a person contacts an old flame or he or she is approached by a former high school or college boyfriend or girlfriend. The communication may start off innocent and be rooted in curiosity, but as nostalgia sets in, the direction can change. Nostalgia is very powerful and can grab tight and entwine itself with one's emotions. After reconnecting with a long-ago love, suddenly current life may not seem so exciting as the rush of feeling young again sets in as those memories are relived. Many people, probably most, do not cross the line, but in the aforementioned statistics, it does appear a good percentage of people apparently do.
Connecting with new friends on Facebook can also tread into dangerous territory, resulting in infidelity. This can occur through meeting people in games or other social activities on the network where people find they have common interests, possibly interests a spouse does not share. Additionally, unlike years past, today's connections can occur instantly, as swiftly as search query or as fast as an enter key allows. This instant gratification ability can often quickly lead to inappropriate relationships that are harmful to an already established and committed relationship.
What words are typed into a keyboard can feel pretty hurtful to the victim of infidelity, even if no physical meeting has taken place between two people. Cheating does not have to be physical, emotional infidelity can be just as damaging to a marriage or committed relationship, sometimes even more.
Honesty is Important
Partners that are open and honest with their mates about connecting online with members of the opposite sex are less likely to wade into the infidelity waters. Transparency has a tendency to squash any tendencies to cheat because the secret, and perhaps exciting, element is taken away and the honesty replaces any inclination to be unfaithful.
Individuals who are disloyal to their partners typically also may have other rooted emotional issues that lead to their infidelity. Ultimately this is what mostly leads to cheating, Facebook is just the modern tool those prone to cheat will use to connect to affair partners. However, this social media tool can easily facilitate what may or may not be an innocent relationship into a full-fledged affair.
Many relationship experts have begun to address the issue of Facebook and infidelity and have recognized technology has impacted the dynamics of what was previously considered an affair. Unfortunately, many people have yet to recognize this as a potentially serious problem and don't realize an issue has emerged until after a line has been crossed and it is too late to go back.
Facebook can be a slippery slope, but usually other conditions are present in the individual or marriage that allows a person to give him or herself permission to cross an inappropriate line.
Does Facebook cause infidelity? Not necessarily, but it can be the road used to take an individual to that destination. Sometimes couples have to work hard to strengthen their marriages and reduce the risk of divorce. Keeping things honest and out in the open helps.