In the movie The Social Network, maintaining “single” as his relationship status incited a jealous rage in Eduardo Saverin’s girlfriend. Even Jamie Lynn Sigler (aka Meadow Soprano) found herself feeling jealous on Entourage when her boyfriend Turtle added an attractive new “friend” to his Facebook page.
Our research on Facebook and relationships has found that Meadow Soprano and Eduardo’s girlfriend are not alone, there is a link between Facebook use and the experience of jealousy.1 After accounting for people’s general propensity toward jealousy, self-esteem, and levels of trust and commitment in their relationships, people who spend more time on Facebook reported more jealousy. Four main triggers of jealousy have been identified: (1) when a partner show interest in another, (2) when another shows interest in a partner, (3) when a partner interacts with a past boyfriend or girlfriend, and (4) ambiguous scenes involving a partner.2 Over 75% of our participants’ partners had ex-partners as “friends” on Facebook, and more than 90% reported that their partners had “friends” who they did not know, so it's not surprising that Facebook can elicit jealousy.
Exposure to ambiguous information on Facebook can trigger jealousy, and participants suggested that this led them to seek out more information on Facebook. A previous post on snooping in relationships reported that low levels of trust make snooping on your partner more likely (and Facebook may be the ultimate snooping tool). Our research suggests that the association between Facebook and jealousy is cyclical: Facebook exposes us to jealousy triggers, jealousy leads to snooping on Facebook, and snooping exposes us to more potential jealousy triggers.
Also see our post on whether Facebook causes divorce and infidelity.
1Muise, A., Christofides, E., & Desmarais, S. (2009). More information than you ever wanted: Does Facebook bring out the green eyed monster of jealousy? CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12, 441-444.
2Sheets, V. L., Fredendall L. L., Claypool, H. M. (1997). Jealousy evocation, partner reassurance, and relationship stability: an exploration of the potential benefits of jealousy. Evolution & Human Behavior, 18, 387–402.
Amy Muise - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Amy’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.