Social Networking and Marital Unhappiness

A new study finds a correlation between social media use and divorce rates in the United States, according to Everett Rosenfeld of CNBC.

The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior by researchers from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Boston University, compares state-by-state divorce rates to per-capita Facebook accounts. In a separate analysis, the researchers also used data from a 2011-2012 survey that asked individuals about marriage quality and social media use.

Their study found a link between social media use and decreased marriage quality in every model researchers analyzed. They said their research did not prove that social media might be to blame for troubled marriages, but suggested such a link may be proven in subsequent studies.

“Although it may seem surprising that a Facebook profile, a relatively small factor compared to other drivers of human behavior, could have a significant statistical relationship with divorce rates and marital satisfaction, it nonetheless seems to be the case,” the authors wrote.

The state analyses found that a 20 percent annual increase in Facebook enrollment was associated with anywhere from a 2.18 percent to a 4.32 percent increase in divorce rates depending on the model used. Similarly, the model from individual survey results predicts that someone who does not use social media is over 11 percent happier in his or her marriage than a heavy social media user.

The study did not attempt to establish any causal relationship between Facebook and negative marital outcomes, but the authors did offer several explanations for why the correlation exists.

The study’s authors reasoned that individuals in troubled marriages might turn to social media for a support system, thus explaining the link between their increased usage and marital problems. They also wrote that social networks might help reduce uncertainty for people going through a divorce by providing information on an ex-partner without forcing direct contact.

The authors also hypothesized that social media’s addictive qualities may create marital strife.

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