Facebook Use Can Predict Divorce, So You Might Want to Log Off

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Since it's a relatively new invention, we are not sure of the long-term effects that Facebook has on its users, but with more and more studies being done, research is revealing interesting correlations between social media and real-life social situations. Facebook use can predict divorce, claims a new study from Boston University.

Curious to determine some of the unknown consequences of the beloved/hated social network, Boston University researchers set out to find if Facebook use affects marital satisfaction and if it leads to divorce. Though it might seem a bit far-fetched, this isn’t the first time that Facebook has been accused of playing a role in soured relationships. According to the NY Daily News, in 2009, Facebook was named in 1 in 5 divorce cases in the U.S. And in 2010, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that in the last five years, 81 percent of top divorce lawyers have seen an increase social network activity being cited as evidence in a case.

The Boston University team studied data from married individuals in 43 states and compared divorce rates and the number of Facebook accounts in each state. They found that for every 20 percent increase in Facebook users, there was a 2.18 percent increase in divorce rate in the states. Even when controlled for age, employment status, and race, the correlation stood true. The researchers then took their survey from the state to the individual level in Austin, Texas. There they asked subjects about their Facebook habits and their marital satisfaction. Again, the researchers found a strong correlations; non-Facebook users claimed to be 11.4 percent happier than "heavy" social network users. Furthermore, 32 percent of heavy users were likely to consider leaving their spouse, compared to only 16 percent of nonusers. Overall, the study concluded that heavy use of Facebook is a"‘positive and significant" predictor of divorce rates and marital troubles.

However, the researchers acknowledge that their study was purely based on correlations and not cause-and-affect. They claim that there are many reasons why someone in an unhappy marriage might turn to Facebook. Facebook could make it easier to cheat; not only does it make it easy to stalk an ex-flame or a crush, but the network also attempts to match up people with mutual interests and friends. Increased use of the social media site could also be a way for someone in a lonely or unhappy relationship to feel like they have social support and be a means of mental escape.

The study isn’t a critique of the technology itself, but rather a statement about how we use it, and how it in turn affects us. If you are a heavy social media user and love your partner, should you be worried about a split? Not likely. However, it wouldn’t hurt to reflect on why it is that we continually log on to Facebook and what we might actually be looking for on the screen.