A New Jersey pastor, Reverend Cedric A. Miller, said 20 couples in his congregation of about 1,100 members have experienced marital troubles in the last six months as a result of Facebook. He urged his congregants to delete their Facebook accounts, calling the social networking website a “portal to infidelity”.
Although this view of Facebook may be extreme, it does lead to the question: Are new technologies bringing us closer together, or tempting us to stray from those who matter most?
A recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81 percent of divorce attorneys have seen an increase in the amount of cases using evidence from social networking websites. It is becoming more common for attorneys to use information gathered from Facebook, Twitter and text messages in dissolution proceedings.
How Does Social Media Influence People’s Behavior?
Therapists say opportunity is a major predictor of infidelity. Opportunities for connections have never been greater than in this digital age.
Years ago, there were numerous barriers to getting in touch with old flames or potential romantic partners. Even if you were able to locate their contact information, you would have to question whether calling or writing them would be appropriate.
Now, by Googling people you are likely to find where they work, their email address and Facebook page. Texts, Facebook messages and emails can be sent casually and discretely. The lure of relationships based on social media is that they seem so innocent at first.
Not only do these technologies make connections easier to establish, they also cause relationships to progress more rapidly. Bob Rosenwein, a researcher at Lehigh University, found that people communicating online fell for each other two to three times faster than those communicating face-to-face. Often in just a week!
Rosenwein explained, “When you don’t have nonverbal communication, the likelihood of being able to disclose at a deeper level is greater, because there’s less inhibition…it’s going to feel like a more intimate relationship.”
Tips to Keep Social Media From Harming Your Relationship
Couples don’t have to disconnect from technology completely, but should agree on appropriate guidelines. Some recommendations are listed below:
- Don’t Keep Secrets– If you receive an email or “friend” request from a past love discuss it with your partner and agree on an appropriate response.
- Share Passwords– If you don’t have shared email accounts or Facebook pages exchange passwords. This helps to prevent temptation and ensures neither of you have anything to hide.
- Limit Time Spent On Social Media– Be aware of how much time you and your partner are spending on social media. Make quality in-person time with your spouse a priority.
- Trust Your Instincts– If you think a particular communication might cross the line, it likely is inappropriate. If you suspect your partner is engaging in improper communication, bring up your concerns with them directly.
Ultimately people, and not technology, are responsible when a relationship fails. Spouses should work together to make sure the instant gratification of social media doesn’t negatively impact their long-term relationship.