Does Facebook spark jealousy, or does it just amplify the jealousy that may already exist in a relationship?

In a study by Muise, et al. (2009), 308 undergraduate students completed a survey regarding usage of Facebook and impact on relationships.  The purpose of the study was to determine if Facebook causes jealousy above and beyond the already-present level of jealousy in the relationship. 

Participants in the study spent an average of 38.93 minutes per day on Facebook.  A majority of study participants (74.6%), were at least somewhat likely to "friend" a former partner, and 78.9% of participants said their partner had friended a former partner.  Ninety-two percent (92.1%) of study participants said their partner had Facebook friends that they did not know. 

Women were found to spend significantly more time on Facebook - 40.57 minutes a day, versus 29..83 minutes a day for men.

The study found that increased use of Facebook does, in fact, significantly predict increased jealousy.  Women scored significantly higher on Facebook jealousy than men, 3.29 versus 2.81.

There may be several reasons for an increase of jealousy due to Facebook:

  • People find out information on Facebook about their partner that they otherwise would not be privy to;
  • Facebook provides more opportunities for reconnecting with former partners;
  • A false sense of intimacy may be established on Facebook, therefore leading people to be more prone to cheating;
  • A relationship may already consist of at least one partner with jealousy issues, and Facebook just is another outlet for the jealous behavior;
  • People may develop a "real-life identity" and a "Facebook identity", thus leading the partner to feel as if they really don't know their partner anymore;
  • Increased time on Facebook may be cutting into quality time with the partner;
  • It reminds people daily that their partner had a romantic life before them;
  • People may become concerned about their partner's Facebook friends posting suggestive messages on their wall;
  • A partner may be "poking" people that a person deems inappropriate. 

The authors also discuss emotion-related jealousy and trait-related jealousy.  Emotion-related jealousy is related to feeling jealousy in a particular situation, such as imagining a partner's infidelity, while trait-related jealousy appears to be built-in to a someone's personality.  Trait-jealousy was a significant predictor of Facebook jealousy, which along with gender, accounted for 46% of the variance. 

Reference:

Muise, A., Christofides, E., and Desmarais, S. (2009) More information than you ever wanted: Does Facebook bring out the green-eyed monster of jealousy? CyberPsychology & Behavior 12(4):441-444. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0263.

Copyright 2011 Sarkis Media LLC

www.stephaniesarkis.com

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