Facebook Divorces- 1/3 of divorces linked to facebook

I recently was asked by Fox 10 news to discuss the shocking new findings that up to 1/3 divorce cases have cited facebook as a contributing factor to the break-up. The new concept of “facebook divorce” is becoming a popular term quickly. A prior study from 2010 from lawyers who had analyzed divorce papers showed 1 out of 5 divorce cases involved facebook. Clearly the trend and problem is on the rise and only getting worse.

There is the obvious:people can have a “double life” with facebook.  They can get int ouch with old flames, chat with new people, flirt, plan to meet and all of this in total privacy of their computer, often while they are at work and their spouse has no idea.  The obvious temptation and now easy opportunity to essentially cheat, is simply too tempting to resist for many people. What makes cheating difficult is the logistics of meeting and hiding another relationship but give someone both opportunity for meeting and easy ability to hide things, and cheating rates will skyrocket. The current rate of cheating is by no means an indicator of how many people “would cheat” rather its only an indicator of how many have the guts to cheat-the desire in people is much higher.

Then comes the less obvious reasons which are equally concerning.  Communication between partners is the glue that holds a relationship together. It is also the fertilizer that makes a relationshiph flourish. Communication is already the biggest thing lacking in relationships by far and facebook divorce is not much higher due to even worse communication. People are busy and already spend a lot of time bringing work home, texting and checking emails. Add to the fact they spend additional hours on facebook to the point they even communicate with their spouse via facebook while sitting in the same room, this leaves no time for proper communication.

Its not only about the lack of time facebook creates, but also people also find more comfort in an old friend or anonymous person online whom they develop an outlet for communicating their stressors and thoughts, which should have been content to share with their spouse. They get essentially online “therapy” with random people, who serve a purpose for the individual as far as stress relief but does absolutely nothing to build their relationships at home.  As a psychiatrist I am seeing increasing number of people asking me how to feel comfortable talking with their spouse because they prefer talking to friends online! Not a good sign!

Finally, something not to be overlooked is the effect facebook addiction has on both the adults but importantly on the children within a relationship. It is stressful enough to deal with children who are doing well, but how about children with addiction to alcohol, drugs or any other problem behaviors going on-this creates a stressful relationship amongst the parents who are already filled with their own stressors. If all of those risks were not enough, now add to this the fact almost every child is on facebook and has the new potential for an addiction which mirrors any other addiction in terms of behaviors and detrimental consequences. (see my article in media on facebook the new gateway drug). Facebook also opens an entirely new opportunity for kids to have to deal with “cyber-bullying” and all of this essentially adds fuel to the fire of an already fizzling relationship.

So while a strong relationship may withstand all of these new facebook stressors, not every relationship wtih flourish and grow into a healthy long-term marriage.  Facebook divorce may be inevitible for some and with marriage rates already on the decline, even more people in my opinion will forgoe marriage to remaing a seperate individual with their online social media as their “partner.”  Consider the 1 in 3 number in regards to facebook divorce numbers and this is clearly an underestimate of the true impact facebook use has on relationships. Take into account marriage rates are declining in favor of people co-habiting without tying the not, which are not taken into consideration in this data. If you look at all relationships outside marriage as well, the numbers are likely approach up to 1/2 of all relationships may be suffering to some degree from facebook useage.  Not a good path for an already struggling nation in terms of our divorce rate!