One In Five Divorce Petitions Mention Facebook?

from the symptom,-not-cause dept

There’s been plenty of anecdotal stories thrown around about how Facebook impacts relationships. You see stories of breakups exacerbated by Facebook, or jealousies created due to Facebook, but how prevalent is it really? According to one UK law firm, they went through recent divorce petitions and found around 20% of them cited Facebook in some manner. While the article goes into the ridiculousness department by suggesting this means that Facebook is “fueling” divorce (rather than recognizing it’s probably just a symptom), it seems likely that if a marriage is heading for divorce anyway, it isn’t that surprising that some of the evidence might come from Facebook. But that doesn’t mean that the site is to blame. In fact, hidden all the way at the bottom of the article is the rather relevant fact that the divorce rate in the UK has been falling recently, just as the popularity of Facebook has shot upwards. It seems like you’d have to suggest a lot more to prove that Facebook is to blame for these divorces, rather than just an additional element in the proceedings.

I also wonder if there’s a bit of a generational thing going on here. I would guess that those who have grown up with Facebook probably won’t be as freaked out to find out that someone is still friends with an ex-. There will always be some aspect of jealousy, of course (especially among young people), but we’re reaching an era when it’s no longer that strange to stay in at least some form of contact with lots of people you meet. The older you are, the more used to losing touch with people you are, and thus a reconnection seems like a bigger deal than it might be to groups of people who have remained in touch constantly.

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Comments on “One In Five Divorce Petitions Mention Facebook?”

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26 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Thank God...

“There will always be some aspect of jealousy, of course (especially among young people)”

Isn’t that the truth, particularly the distinction of being young. One of the most pleasurable aspects of now being in my late 20’s is all the stupid little things I no longer have to worry about because I’m not a young fool, but an adult slightly less fool. No more worrying about who my girl is friends with. She wants to go out on her own for a night? Great! I’ve got stuff to do as well.

Having said all that, isn’t this simply another aspect of medium fright? As in, younger people use Facebook today the way that an older generation used, oh, say the bar or dance club? It’d be interesting to gauge the decline of the use of the words “bar” or “club” in these divorces and how that decline correlates with the use of Facebook…

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Thank God...

“It’d be interesting to gauge the decline of the use of the words “bar” or “club” in these divorces and how that decline correlates with the use of Facebook…”

ditto … its more than likely they have the numbers correct but drew the wrong conclusion. Its probably a symptom of other problems and not the actually cause. In all actuallity facebook is probably replacing bars and other hook up methods when things go wrong with the relationship.

Hulser (profile) says:

While the article goes into the ridiculousness department by suggesting this means that Facebook is “fueling” divorce (rather than recognizing it’s probably just a symptom)

I don’t think it’s ridiculous to suggest that Facebook is “fueling” divorce. Facebook and the Internet as a whole has changed our lives by making information much more available to us. This information sometimes happens to include evidence of inappropriate behavior by our loved ones. We can admit when more information has a positive impact, so why can’t we admit when more information has a negative impact?

Note that I’m not suggesting that Facebook is to blame for divorce. “Blame” is a judgement word that is almost always irrelevant in these kinds of discussions. However, the Internet does have an effect on our lives. It may take a while for people to adjust to the new social landscape brought about by the Internet — i.e., there might be a spike of people “blaming” Facebook for their divirce — but why is it ridiculous to suggest that Facebook has uncovered information that would have previously remained hidden and that this has an effect on divorce?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Agreed. There can be no doubt that Facebook is drastically changing social norms of friendship and communication and romance. I don’t even know if I’m ready to call it a ‘fuel’, just a ‘factor’ (and a big one)

But the point is certainly that there is definitely a lot of interesting stuff to learn – if someone would do a genuine, non-sensationalist study of Facebook’s impact on relationships without diving straight into the blame-game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This whole thing again falls into the category of correlation != causation. Thats where the “ridiculousness” comes into play.

For instance, there is a strong correlation between a person’s annual salary and rate of heart attacks. Does more money cause heart attacks? No, obviously not. Both salary and rate of heart attacks tend to increase with age and higher salaries often indicate higher stress levels. Strong correlation, but not causation.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I understand the difference between correlation and causation. What I’m saying is that there is causation. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to suggest that it can take a while for social norms to catch up with the new possibilities permitted by technology and that, in the mean time, human behavior can be affected. And just to be clear, I’m not saying that causation = blame. Why is it ridiculous to acknowledge that technology causes a situation to exist that can change how people behave?

LEt No App Put Asunder (profile) says:

One In Five Divorce Petitions Mention Facebook?

I wonder what the real stats will be, i.e. how many times FB is mentioned in divorce cases, when a generation truly has grown up with Facebook for more than the several years it has been available to the masses.

Makes you wonder if it’s just the technology that’s changed and not the various age-old underlying reasons for divorce. One could argue that call-waiting made cheating easier because you could take two calls instead of one… or webcams let you see your audience too instead of just hearing them….and so on. I guess what’s fascinating to me is on what grounds Facebook is named as a catalyst in breaking up a marriage. Couples can break up over all sorts of technology/web-based matters–porn, MySpace, Scrabulous banter, Facebook- but isn’t it, in and of itself, a false intimacy to a certain extent, even that first crush who accepts your friendship from middle school? Interesting to know what the ‘betrayals’ are here.

J.B. says:

Progressive - NOT!

There will always be some aspect of jealousy, of course (especially among young people), but we’re reaching an era when it’s no longer that strange to stay in at least some form of contact with lots of people you meet.

And there’s the problem. People think it’s wierd not to cease and desist all communication with those who were former sex partners (the rationale? “we’re just friends now. We’re all mature adults here.”) B.S….B.S….B.S…..nobody in their right mind would light and smoke a cigarette while standing at the gas pump filling their gas tank but in this time we live in, people too easily think it’s just paranoid, old-fashioned and narrow-minded for a married person to not FB-friend those they once had a sexual relationship with. Uh, no it’s not. It’s just good old common sense.

BR says:

Or perhaps divorce causes an increase in Facebook use?

In a correlation such as this it’s impossible to know which is causing which…it could just as easily be the case that people who have decided to get divorced are more prone to start using facebook. Personally, I believe that Facebook and other computer social networking sites HAVE contributed to divorce. Why? Because of the percentage of divorced people that I personally know who say they (or they’re spouse) found somebody new ‘on line’. But this study does not prove that.

LDX says:

I've been very careful

I had privacy issues with HI5, so I was very careful when i register on facebook, set everything on private, no ex gf, no hot female friends, not even sluty male friends, just family, work and church friends, of course they do have their lives, their own hot relatives, and friend suggestions. Bottom line, I’m gettin divorced.

Yepeeeeeee…..!

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