Facebook has undeniably changed the way we live, arguably shifting our social scene from a spaced out nightclub to a ridiculous cramped elevator where everyone yells at once. That probably isn’t helping some marriages, and sure enough, here come the social scientists with what looks like reasonable proof: Facebook is helping people get divorced.
According to researchers at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and Boston University’s College of Communication, Facebook usage was positively correlated with divorce. And interestingly, it was well-controlled for once, and didn’t actually wind up blaming Facebook.
Results show that using SNS is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce. These correlations hold after a variety of economic, demographic, and psychological variables related to marriage well-being are taken into account. Further, the findings of this individual-level analysis are consistent with a state-level analysis of the most popular SNS to date: across the U.S., the diffusion of Facebook between 2008 and 2010 is positively correlated with increasing divorce rates during the same time period after controlling for all time-invariant factors of each state (fixed effects), and continues to hold when time-varying economic and socio-demographic factors that might affect divorce rates are also controlled.
The team is fairly upfront with the caveats, it should be said. They found a correlation, but that doesn’t mean causation. They point out this could indicate a few different trends: People who are miserable in their relationships turn to Facebook for solace; Facebook could be triggering more fights over jealousy or suspicion; or Facebook could be making it easier for people to cheat. Of the three, that last actually seems the most likely. It’s not like there are any shortage of “My spouse met the person they’re now humping via Facebook” stories on the Internet.
They also think there could be “reinforcing spirals,” as in all three of these things happen at the same time. It’s actually a refreshing dose of common sense: Facebook isn’t directly at fault so much as simply providing tools that might, depending on your perspective, be abused. The simple fact of the matter is that we’ve never had anything like Facebook ever before in human history. Finding somebody we casually know is as simple as typing in their name, and you can learn far more about them in far less time.
So, yeah, we, as a society, will have to go through an adjustment period. Or quit Facebook.