Social Media, Breakups, and Divorce

In our highly publicized world of social media, there has emerged a great casualty: Love. We’ve all seen breakups go bad over social media. Between the revenge posts and stalking ex’s profiles, social media can be an unhealthy place for a recently split up couple. Social media is not only a cause of post break-up trauma, however. It has now begun to become a cause of the breakup. I have first hand experienced this phenomenon. At the root of my trouble: one innocent untagged Facebook photo.

To start, the simply using social media excessively can be bad for many aspects of a person’s life. One of our fellow classmates cited a massive grade disparity between social media users and those without online accounts. Students without online accounts averaged a substantially more favorable GPA. Similarly, the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Media recently found that people who use Facebook for more than one hour a day are more likely to encounter Facebook related conflict with their partners. While this seems obvious that someone who uses Facebook more is more likely to have any kind of Facebook related problem, it does at least show that social media contributes at least another reason for a break-up. The Journal cited consequences to social media such as misunderstandings and jealousy. The study also cited the ability to reconnect with past partners as a source of cheating and instability in one’s current relationship.

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Now, this is all fine when the relationships are young and inconsequential, but studies have begun to discover that social media is playing a part in divorce as well. In 2012 Divorce-Online UK embarked on a qualitative study which concluded that one in three divorces were the result of social media related disagreements.

There is even a website dedicated to offering advice about Facebook related marriage trouble, facebookcheating.com. The opening image on the website reads, “Is Facebook Killing Your Marriage?” According to Alexa Rankings, almost a quarter of the traffic to this website comes from the google search “Facebook cheating signs” and another 15% from the search “cheating stories.”

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In 2011, University of Austin Texas posted a study indicating that 32% of heavy social media users were considering breaking up with their spouse versus 16% for those who do not use any social media. It makes sense to me that this would be the case. The world of social media gives you – and your spouse – more options. In a world where we live longer, have more options, and can talk to anyone anywhere, relationships are going to suffer.

A number of sources have noted that social media evidence is highly permissible in court. some smart phones actually record your patterned movements and recognize places you visit often. Whenever I’m in new Jersey and hop into my car my phone will give me a notification to tell me how long the drive is to TriBeCA in New York where I worked all summer. Without necessarily realizing it is catching you cheating, these services can recognize that you frequent a certain address. This kind of evidence, in addition to text messages and any social media posts, can find their way into your spouses hands and eventually a court room.

So I’ve harped on about how destructive social media is in a relationship and the negative consequences of social media. Yes, it does appear that social media is playing a role in breakups in divorce, but is this a bad thing or does social media merely uncover the truth? Depending on the split, social media can simply be a means by which someone who was going to cheat is eventually caught. In many cases Facebook merely uncovers a problem that already existed. In other cases, Facebook might create a problem that otherwise never would have occurred. I guess in the end, we just have to take the good with the bad!

7 comments

  1. This is a very interesting post! I do agree that with social media there is a lot of bad that comes with the good. I personally do not post that much about my private life and relationships to my public social media accounts, but I can see how these can lead to the problems you have raised. I also see that as social media and digital platforms grows, the way we date will change as well. Online dating is becoming a norm and has really helped other connect when before they probably wouldn’t have ever met.

  2. vicmoriartybc · ·

    I have to admit that when I first saw the title of your post, I immediately thought it would be about Brangelina’s split and the immense response on social media. I guess when you’re a celebrity, you have to worry less about social media being the root of your marital problems, and more about social media’s reaction to them. However, for us mere mortals, as you said, all it might take to cause problems with a spouse or partner is a Facebook photo, or them seeing an address that you visited on your phone. I remember hearing one story of a couple getting into a fight because the girl saw that the boy’s ex was on his Snapchat “best friends” list – maybe that’s why Snapchat decided to remove that feature! I wonder if other social networks will follow suit and delete similar features.

  3. rohansuwarna · ·

    Hey great work! I recently read about social media ruining relationships on Twitter so your blog post is very coincidental. I feel like this trend is an unfortunate truth. As we progress forward I feel like people will only depend on social media even more and this will cause even more strain to many relationships. The fact that there is a website dedicated to this whole topic is crazy to even believe. However, I understand that this is a serious concern since people spend so much time on social media networks they are bound to become obsessed with what their significant other is up to or who he or she hang out with.

  4. Interesting post, although I’m a bit wary of the “causation vs correlation” issue. I think it’s more likely that people who are unhappy in their relationship are more likely to spend time on FB than it is that spending time on FB makes one unhappy in their relationship. It does serve as a constant source of “grass is always greener” thinking though, as everyone only puts the good stuff about their lives up online.

  5. This is actually a very interesting topic that you’ve chosen for this week, especially since it covers the intersectionality of real life relationships and online relationships. However, I do think that you would need more evidence in order to develop a convincing argument (even though you intentionally stayed away from blaming social media for breakups). There might be other factors that are isolated in people who don’t use social media like their heavy emphasis on real life relationships over “fake” online relationships. Along with that, feelings of infidelity of lack of trust could lead to an increased use of social media (or just cyber stalking). However, overall I think this was a well written blog post that really let the reader make his or her own conclusions and really ponders the question of how much social media is too much?

  6. emilypetroni14 · ·

    I agree with Professor Kane’s comment. People have and always will cheat, social media has just made it much easier to do so. As someone that is divorced, looking back I probably would have checked on my ex-husband’s activity if I could. I know many married couples that have joint Facebook pages or have passwords to each other’s accounts. And it would be very easy to look over the fence at the greener grass when someone’s account looks like every day they are laughing and partying with friends at the beach.

  7. ^ I also agree with the above. But I really enjoyed reading your post. I feel that since before time people always cheated, I just feel that social media and technology has aided people or helped uncover people more. I feel that it is easier to trace people or catch them in the act. I have a good friend from high school that was dating a girl and later we found when he went to college he had another set of social media accounts to connect with girls at his school. This may sound twisted, but it is cheating, and it as I hear is more common than we think. We hear all these stories about how social media “promotes” cheating, I just think it helps people become caught.

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