Christopher Foley, a media guru friend of mine, asked me what effects I thought social media, and Facebook in particular, have on modern relationships. My instant response was, “Hey, any new form of connectivity is ultimately going to be good for relationships.” To my surprise, Christopher informed me that different groups of people thought social media was bad for relationships! Really? I was honest-to-God surprised, so I checked out the research (online of course) and found out that Christopher was right! Facebook has been criticized by bloggers and social media haters over the last four or five years, mostly in response to one study, by of all people, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). That’s right, divorce lawyers. The 2010 study found that 80% of AAML lawyers reported an increasing number of cases citing evidence from social networking sites in the last five years, with Facebook way ahead of the other social media (66% Facebook, 15% MySpace, 5% twitter). One third of divorce filings actually contained the word “Facebook.” Facebook was a legal goldmine for catching people lying, using drugs and cheating on their spouses. Photos were a particularly “rich” source—just imagine the look of happy excitement on the face of a divorce lawyer who’s found a picture of his client’s spouse smoking a joint or smooching a lover.
This study has been egregiously misrepresented.Other research from UCSF and University of Missouri-Columbia suggests a very different story:
- The divorce rate has actually been shrinking in recent years.
- People who post about their partner on Facebook report being more satisfied and secure in their marriage than those who don’t.
- When people are happy, they post more.
- The more people post about their spouse, the happier they reported being, with one exception—that people who posted “excessively” had more Facebook-related conflict.