By Joel Anderson, Point Park News Service:
For many people, nothing is official in a relationship unless it’s on Facebook.
The new ritual of becoming “Facebook official” has extended past just announcing relationships to engagements and marriages as well. Despite the reliance on social media to announce good news, it is also having negative effects on relationships, according to a recent study by the Bar Association of America. The study said nearly a third of all divorce cases in 2011 involved the word “Facebook” in the reason for the filing of divorce.
Sarah Schulz, professor of psychology at Point Park University, said social media’s announcement of relationships is a new sign for our society.
“A lot of people say, ‘If it’s not Facebook official, it’s not official.’ And that’s a symbol we have in our society, that changing your status is making a statement,” she said. “It’s making everything public; it’s letting everybody else know.”
Robert McInerney, professor of psychology at Point Park University, said he has his worries about Facebook becoming a ritual for announcing our relationships.
“The problem here is that Facebook becomes a validation, but the technology itself has no substance,” McInerney said. “(With) Facebook, you can picture the whole system just going down, and then what you have is just gone. With a button or a virus, it’s gone.”
More than half of 2000 Americans reported that social networking has had a negative impact on how people interact with society, according to a release from Keep Good Going Report.
One reason this is a problem is because people have different definitions on how to act online, Schulz said.
“The idea is that a lot of infidelity could play out online. So you have a marriage intact in real life, but then you have people who are cheating on their spouses, but not in real life, just online. So it’s blurring the lines of what we see as being faithful to your spouse, because there are a lot of people who consider online relationships to not be cheating,” she said.
The public aspect of social media has a negative effect on relationships, she added.
“Before social media, you didn’t first-hand witness every interaction your spouse had,” she said. “Even if your spouse had an e-mail exchange with their ex, it wasn’t something that you saw. And by nature of social networking, it’s all out there for everyone to see.”
Another issue facing our relationships due to social media is a sense of false intimacy, which Facebook can enhance. However, McInerney said fast relationships aren’t something new created by social media.
“My parents and my parent’s parents often fell in love very quickly and got married very quickly because of kinds of different social issues,” he said. “You just sort of fell in love very quickly, and in a few months you announced your wedding engagement. It’s not unheard of. It’s certainly been around for a long, long time. But again, Facebook takes those practices and makes them hyper-available, and that’s where we’ve got to wonder the good and the bad of it.”