Social Media Use Has Been Linked to Unhappy Marriages

For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until… social media do us part? For better or worse, it’s certainly true that social media has taken over many of our lives, and the nature of our relationships. Our personal lives (or a shiny image of them) are far more public than they once were, and people who have used social networking sites nonstop since they were young teenagers are now getting married. But despite all the lovey-dovey status updates and anniversary congratulations, social media may in fact be to blame for leaving many spouses #heartbroken.

One study suggests that social media use is correlated with unhappy marriages and divorce. In several analyses, researchers found that a 20% increase in Facebook enrollment was tied to between a 2.18% and 4.32% increase in divorce rates. Conversely, people who do not use social media report being on average 11% happier in their marriages than heavy users. Another UK study even found that one in seven people had considered divorce because of their partner’s social media activity. None of this is conclusive, but the link does seem to exist. So, what is the explanation? Do we need to close our social media accounts when we reach the altar to say our vows?

Social Media and Divorce: Possible Explanations

One potential reason for the link is the increased level of transparency that social media affords. Relationships are publicly proclaimed and maintained, and that can lead to a lot of pressure. If one partner connects with and messages his ex, his partner might get jealous. If she doesn’t set her status to married for all the world to see, he might feel insecure. If there is eventually a fight, social network “friends” might get involved by weighing in via vague but rather pointed comments. All of this gets in the way of spouses communicating directly with each other, and working out their problems in a personal, private way.

Social media can also create unrealistic expectations. Users often curate their posts to such a degree that others see only filtered, carefree versions of their lives. It’s easy to feel dissatisfied with your own marriage if scrolling through your newsfeed reveals only bouquets of roses and beach getaways. After all, no one posts about boring nights in front of the TV or the pointless arguments that can be part of married life. Sometimes, a perfectly healthy marriage pales in comparison to the idealized ones presented on social media—even if that ideal doesn’t actually exist. Ultimately, it’s probably not social media itself that brings down our marriages, but the way we choose to engage with it, and our partners.

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