People use Facebook for a lot of things, but keeping in touch with (so-called) “friends” has to be near the top of the list. There are lots of ways to use Facebook, but it’s possible that some ways of maintaining friendships are better than others. For example, you can simply keep tabs on your friend’s activities by stalking his or her Facebook wall. Though a bit passive, monitoring your friend has the benefit of keeping you informed and allows you to have things to talk about the next time you are both together.1 Another, less passive, option is to engage in maintenance behaviors,2 like posting something on a friend’s wall that offers positive encouragement and support, being open and showing empathy, or generally letting your friend know you’re thinking about him or her. On the surface these all seem like good options, but let’s see what the research says…
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Facebook has changed the way people share information about their relationships and the way they communicate with their romantic partners. As I discussed here, Facebook provides opportunities for people to express their relationship satisfaction and commitment, but, as we learned here, Facebook is also a forum where people can access information about their romantic partners that may trigger jealousy.1 Ambiguous posts on a partner’s wall (“Great to see you last night!”) or the addition of a new, attractive person to a partner’s Facebook friend list may incite feelings of jealousy and insecurity. In our recent research, we wanted to address the following questions: How do people respond to jealousy-provoking information on Facebook? And who is more likely to seek out additional information in response to feelings of jealousy?
I was recently talking to a (male) friend from college, reminiscing about how all the guys in the dorms wanted to learn how to play guitar because we thought that it would increase our odds of landing a lady. Is it really true that women find guitar players attractive? Two recent studies have attempted to answer this question.
The first study, conducted in France, enlisted a young male research assistant who was highly attractive.1 He was not aware of the study’s hypotheses. His task was to systematically approach 300 similarly-aged women who were walking alone across a particular walkway and passing him (that is, he was told not to select only women he was attracted to). When a woman walked by, he asked for her phone number, saying that he would like to call her later so that they could go out and get a drink together.
Several years ago I received a Facebook message from a stranger. After exchanging a few innocuous messages with him, he invited me to lunch and—partly because I was recently single, partly because I had never gone on a formal date with someone I met online, and partly because I enjoy the excitement of a potential kidnapping—I agreed. Over the course of the meal he peppered me with a series of questions that I thought were somewhat atypical for a first date (“How many children do you want?” “How soon can I meet your family?”). Eventually, I set my fork down and said, “Not to be rude or anything, but it feels like you’re auditioning me to be your wife.” He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Kind of, yeah.”
Despite my adventurous spirit, I had enough sense to not marry the guy. But a growing number of individuals are meeting their future spouses online. In fact, results of a recent nationally representative study suggest that over one-third of individuals who married between 2005 and 2012 originally met their partners on the Internet.1 What is particularly compelling about this study, however, is that it tackled a previously overlooked question that many dating websites (e.g., eHarmony) claim to know the answer to: Do individuals who meet their partners online or offline have more successful marriages?
Part 1 of this article described a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships investigating how Facebook has become an important part of the development of romantic relationships. In particular, although young adults don’t view Facebook as a dating site per se, it is used as a way to get to know potential partners better and gauge romantic interest. But beyond these initial interactions, Facebook is important as relationships progress.
Whether you like it or not, Facebook has become a central part of young people’s lives: about 75% of adolescents and young adults (aged 12-24) in the United States are active users of Facebook.1 As an important part of their day-to-day social interactions, Facebook reflects and plays a critical role in the development of young people’s romantic relationships. The importance of Facebook is illustrated by a recent paper published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,2 which employed in-depth interviews and focus groups with 55 college students to gather their thoughts about Facebook’s role in relationship development. College students are typically heavy users of Facebook; this sample of students reported spending, on average, nearly 2.5 hours actively using Facebook each day (which is similar to the frequency reported in other studies).3
Based on these interviews, the researchers identified three themes that are relevant at different points of relationship development:
You know those people on Facebook who tag their romantic partners in every…single…post? Or how about the people whose uploaded photos almost always contain their partners? If you’re anything like me, you may find it somewhat annoying, but these kinds of behaviors convey important information about couples’ relationships.
Previously, we have discussed how romantic partners’ senses of self gradually begin merging together and overlap with one another. In other words, we begin to take on some of our romantic partner’s aspects into our sense of who we are (e.g., you may find that you have picked up interests or hobbies that your partner introduced you to), and we begin to talk more in terms of “us” and “we” than “me” and “him/her”. In a recent study, researchers surveyed 276 individuals (mostly college students) about various aspects of their romantic relationships, including the degree of self-partner overlap and the content of their Facebook profiles.
Have you seen the headlines about the “Singles in America” survey? Match.com is oh-so-proud of it. The company boasts of the intellectual firepower behind their study. The survey is touted as “comprehensive” and the Match.com CEO brags that, “Since its inception, Singles in America has proven to be an unprecedented source of insight into the ideologies and lifestyle choices of today’s singles.”
Of course, the fact that the survey comes from Match.com should set off our scientific alarm bells. But Match.com points to their scholars in charge, and notes that the results are based on a representative sample of 5,000 American singles and 1,000 married people. Plus, sadly enough, many media outlets take the findings reported in the press release and run with them, as though they were ferrying precious cargo. So I think it is important to take a close look from a scientific perspective, and offer a less credulous perspective than you might find elsewhere.
The information people choose to share on Facebook can provide insight into their personalities and social lives. We can make fairly accurate judgments about individuals’ personalities from their Facebook profiles alone.1 In one study where people rated a stranger’s Facebook profile, judgments of certain personality traits, such as extroversion (e.g., sociability, outgoing nature) and openness to experience (e.g., curiosity, preference for variety) were consistent with the stranger’s ratings of himself or herself as well as how the stranger’s close friends rated him or her.1 So it seems that Facebook can help us learn about someone. But what do people’s Facebook profiles tell us about their romantic relationships?
Let’s face it, Facebook has changed the way we experience romantic relationships. The widespread popularity of Facebook has increased the amount of information people can access about their romantic partners - past, present, and future. In addition, Facebook has provided new ways for romantic partners to communicate. In previous posts, I talked about research findings linking Facebook use to higher levels of romantic jealousy and greater relationship satisfaction when going “Facebook official”. But, what are the consequences of staying Facebook “friends” with a partner after breaking up with said partner?
Social networking has fundamentally changed how we interact with one another. For example, researchers find, time and again,1,2 that interactive networking sites are helpful in maintaining relationships with our close friends and family as well as with our acquaintances. But these sites have also changed how we end our relationships. The best example of this is the ability to “unfriend” someone on Facebook. With the click of a button, you are able to terminate your Facebook relationship with anyone you had previously friended. However, when a friend decides to cut you off, you receive no notification that you have been unfriended. In fact, you’re likely to only notice the change in friendship status when your total number of Facebook friends goes down or if you search for the person who unfriended you and notice they are no longer listed as one of your friends.
Facebook has finally gone public. Unless you're sitting on a stack of their stock, you'll never see a dime from it. But thanks to ScienceOfRelationships.com, at least you can be rich in knowledge about relationships. Here's a recap of some of our favorite articles about Facebook.
- Does the Green Eyed Monster have a Facebook Profile?
- Read This Before Your Next Facebook Post
- Does Facebook Cause Divorce and Infidelity?
- How Does Social Media Influence Relationships?: The Morning Show Discussion
- Get Your Facebook Profile Ready for Valentine’s Day
- Are You Facebook "Official"?
- I’m Watching You on Facebook: Attachment and Partner Surveillance
In the movie The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg deems the relationship status section of users’ Info the finishing touch on his new website, “the Facebook.” Assuming the movie was depicted accurately, this last minute addition may have changed the face of what it means to be “in a relationship.” Today this means that your relationship status is no longer a private agreement between you and your partner, but rather a public display broadcasted to all of your “friends.” “Facebook official” is a popular term used to describe the process of changing your relationship status on Facebook to reflect that you are now “in a relationship.” For some, this denotes the official beginning of a new relationship. After all, nothing’s official until it’s on Facebook, right?
Facebook helps you stay connected with friends and family, but some people also use it to keep tabs on their romantic partners. Anxiously attached people are more likely to use Facebook to monitor their partners’ behaviors and are more jealous about their partners’ Facebook use (e.g., if the partner is still friends with a former boyfriend/girlfriend). Conversely, avoidant people show the opposite pattern; they monitor their partners less and feel less jealousy.
(A note to you anxious folks out there: if it will help you feel better, please don’t be afraid to spend lots of time monitoring the SofR Facebook page; avoidants are welcome too.)
Marshall, T. C., Bejanyan, K., Di Castro, G., & Lee, R. A. (in press). Attachment styles as predictors of Facebook-related jealousy and surveillance in romantic relationships. Personal Relationships.
Facebook gives its 800 million+ users the opportunity to interact and build connections with a variety of people. Given the nature of interactions on the site, including making comments or “liking” others’ posts, Facebook provides a unique forum for those seeking to improve friendships or enhance their self-esteem. As anyone who has used Facebook can tell you, many posts are of the “look at how awesome I am” variety. Clearly, Facebook provides an excellent social outlet for those with high self-esteem; but, it may be less beneficial for their less self-loving counterparts.
What should you do to get ready for Valentine’s Day? According to YourTango, you should delete your ex-partner from your Facebook friends list. They have even designated a day for doing it; February 13th is Break Up With Your Ex Day, and this means deleting, blocking, untagging, and unfollowing your ex from Facebook and other social media.
SofR contributor Dr. Patrick Markey talks about technology and relationships.