According to new research conducted at Boston University, there is a correlation between the use of social media, marital status, and divorce.
The authors of a study at the university explained that heavy use of social networks, specifically Facebook, is “a positive, significant predictor of divorce rate and spousal troubles” in the United States.
James E. Katz, the Feld Family Professor of Emerging Media Studies at the College of Communication, led the study and compared the divorce rate of individuals in 43 states from 2008 to 2010.
The researchers first calculated the “Facebook penetration” in each state by dividing the number of total users by the state’s population. They found that a 20 percent increase in a population can indicate a 2.18 percent increase in divorce in that particular state. The correlation remained constant — even when they factored in variables such as age, employment status, and race.
Katz and his team also looked at a University of Texas study, which surveyed 1,160 married people aged 18 to 39. The study compared social network users and non-users on the level of happiness people felt in their relationships. The results found that non-users are 11.4 percent more happy than those who use social media heavily. Additionally, heavy users were 32 percent more likely to leave their spouses, while only 16 per cent of non-users wanted a divorce.
Katz explained that it makes sense for people unhappy with their relationship to use Facebook to connect with new people. Even the idea of meeting someone else could increase the chances of leaving a spouse.
“The apparent association between the use of Facebook and other social networking sites and divorce and marital unhappiness in the United States raises troubling questions not only about how we use these tools, but how their use affects marriage,” Katz says. “The institution of marriage, already under siege in many quarters, seems to be facing yet further assault from people’s growing enthrallment with social media.”
The study, titled “Social Network Sites, Marriage Well-Being, and Divorce: Survey and State-Level Evidence from the United States” was recently published online.