Social Media Behavior: A “Marriage Minefield”
According to a survey of 2,000 married Brits commissioned by an English law firm, social media is increasingly wedging its way into matrimonial bliss and factoring into breakups. Facebook was the most frequently cited social media, but others included Skype Snapchat, Twitter and What’s App.
Online Behavior Has Changed Fast
“Five years ago, Facebook was rarely mentioned in the context of a marriage ending, but now it has become commonplace for clients to cite social media use, or something they discovered on social media, as a reason for divorce,” said Andrew Newbury, head of family law at Slater and Gordon, the firm that commissioned the study.
“With more than 556 million people using Facebook each day, the way we live our lives, and our marriages, has drastically changed. We are finding that social media is the new marriage minefield,” Newbury said.
What’s Rocking Marriages?
Among the survey’s key findings was that infidelity concerns propelled a great deal of the cyber-snooping and Facebook fights. What’s more:
- Twenty-five percent of respondents said they argued at least once a week about their spouse’s activity on social media, and 17 percent fought daily about it.
- Arguments were often prompted by one partner’s contact or secret messaging of a former love interest, or the posting of inappropriate content.
- Fifteen percent of those surveyed considered social media dangerous to their marriage, with Facebook leading the threats followed by What’s App, Twitter and Instagram. (What’s App offers unlimited texting and has 450 million U.S. users, reports USA Today, and it’s even bigger overseas.)
- One in 20 griped that they were never in photos that their partner posted on social media, which they found upsetting.
- One in 10 confessed that they hid posts and photos from their partner
- Eight percent admitted they had secret social media accounts.
- Forty-three percent of respondents confronted their spouse upon finding upsetting social media actions by their spouse, but nearly as many (40 percent) said they waited awhile to be mentally prepared.
- Only one-third of the married people kept their log-ins secret from their partner, yet 58 percent said they knew the partner’s secret password anyway.
Cyber-Cheating or Internet Addiction?
Surveyed married folks reported that it wasn’t only about the behavior itself but about the length of time spent online. Some of the signs that a partner is cyber-cheating include extensive periods in which a partner’s texting or communicating with someone online, grouchiness when they are interrupted, and a sense of euphoria when the partner gets back to their social media.
But proceed with caution. A lot of the signs for cyber-cheating are very similar to those described for social media addiction or technology addiction. The signs of technology addiction, while not yet an official diagnosis, mirror cyber-cheating. They both include compulsive checking of text messages, feelings of euphoria while on the Internet or social media, and frequent Facebook status updates and selfie posts, according to Hilarie Cash, PhD, and co-founder of the ReSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program.
Technology Enables Our Insecurities
The conflicts over social media behavior among spouses are on the rise. In a 2010 survey of divorce lawyers by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 80 percent reported that in the prior five years, they’d seen an increase in divorce cases that used evidence found on social media. Some 66 percent of the attorneys conceded that they’d dug up evidence on Facebook.
Mali Apple and Joe Dunn, co-authors of the books “The Soulmate Experience” and “The Soulmate Lover,” offered some observations on what the findings reflect about technology and relationships:
“What struck us about this is that social media, along with cell phones and their easy-to-access call and texting history, just gives us many more opportunities to indulge our insecurity,” the authors wrote in an email. “It used to be we'd just rifle through our partner's pockets or wallet; now the opportunities for such ‘spying’ are so much more prevalent and harder to resist.
“We've seen many occasions where the access to one's partner's phone or social media accounts creates more disconnect, because of the temptation to go searching for ‘evidence’ to justify one's feelings of distrust or insecurity,” the authors concluded. “So the real problem is not social media per se, but how we deal with issues of insecurity and trust in our relationships.”
By Nancy Wride
Follow Nancy on Twitter at @NWride