How exactly does the Internet hurt relationship development and maintenance? Might the web be potentially dangerous for even the healthiest of relationships? The following list outlines some primary ways Internet connection can complicate romantic relationships.
- Too many choices
Finding the perfect partner is a critical relationship hurdle, and online dating sites offer an appealingly wide assortment of potential partners. Sometimes, however, more choices create more problems. People flounder when encountering a large choice set of potential partners and ultimately make choices that are less aligned with their ideal mate preferences. There’s also some reason to suspect that happiness with partner choice might be less when the options are so many.
- Online dating brings people together, but usually not forever
Some couples will meet online and live happily ever after, but the general pattern suggests otherwise. It turns out that marriage is more often an outcome for couples who meet offline than those who meet online. Couples who meet online also suffer more breakups and divorces compared to those whose relationships started offline. These data underscore the need for careful discernment during the dating process. If you’re looking to date, the Internet might be a great start, but if you’re looking for long-term love, engaging in offline pursuits may be a more successful strategy.
- Facebook use predicts romantic jealousy
Spending time on Facebook may seem like a harmless pastime, but it actually predicts a variety of negative relationship experiences, including jealousy. Jealousy can be lethal in relationships, undermining trust and lessening positive relationship behaviors.
- Partner monitoring and surveillance
With social-networking sites, people have new ways to keep track of their romantic partner, an ease of surveillance that may create unhealthy habits. According to recent research (Muise, Christofides, & Desmarais, 2014), when women feel jealous, they spend more time searching their partner’s Facebook profile, possibly seeking information to confirm or deny their suspicions. Partner monitoring is particularly heightened for individuals with anxious attachment.
- The path to infidelity and break-ups
Facebook and other social-networking websites can provide new sources of conflict that hurt relationship well-being. For example, couples can argue about excessive Facebook use or viewing of others’ profiles. Recent evidence shows that not only does regular Facebook use predict negative outcomes like infidelity and break-ups, but this link is explained by Facebook-related conflict. In other words, Facebook introduces a new source of conflict that can adversely impact relationships.
- Beware of the Tweet
Not all couples communicate via Twitter, but those who do open up a new medium for potential conflict. Clayton (2014) showed that active Twitter use can translate to Twitter-related conflict for romantic partners, and in turn, such conflict can generate negative relationship outcomes. Specifically, Twitter-related conflict predicts cheating behavior and relationship break-up and divorce.
- The ex-factor
While online technology has been praised for its ability to connect people, sometimes, it’s better to stay disconnected. Evidence shows that people who receive Facebook invitations from ex-partners and accept them tend to be more depressed and anxious than those who receive requests but ignore them (Tsai, Shen, & Chiang, 2014). Men in these situations tend to be particularly depressed, even more so than women. In sum, the very goal of social networking (to connect people) can make it challenging to focus on new relationship opportunities.
- Getting over relationships is faster offline
Break-ups can be devastating, causing considerable emotional distress. Recovery, or adjustment, is a process of rebuilding the self separate from the former partner, and it occurs at different speeds and in different ways for different people. Recent evidence shows that better adjustment occurs when relationship break-ups have no, or minimal, Facebook impact (LeFebvre, Blackburn, & Brody, 2014). In other words, engaging in Facebook behavior linked to the former relationship may have impeded an ability to move on. Given the access to an ex that Facebook offers, this finding makes sense: better to stay off of Facebook through the adjustment process.
- The danger of new Facebook friends
When your partner solicits or accepts new friend requests from people who might harbor romantic interests, that signals to you that your partner has low relationship commitment (Drouin, Miller, & Dibble, 2014).