Although the use of social networking websites such as Facebook and Myspace have become almost ubiquitous among college students, there has yet to be much psychological research investigating the effects of these websites on interpersonal relationships.
One study that investigated this issue found that Facebook use may contribute to feelings of jealousy in romantic relationships.
The study was conducted by Amy Muise, Emily Christofides, and Serge Desmarais and published in the scientific journal CyberPsychology & Behavior in 2009.
Muise and her colleagues administered an anonymous online survey to 308 college students.
The survey acquired both quantitative information and open-ended qualitative data about the use of Facebook, although only 68 of the participants completed the qualitative section.
They found that the amount of time spent on Facebook was associated with increased feelings of jealousy in romantic relationships.
As one of the participants in the study explained, “I have enough confidence in her [his partner]to know my partner is faithful, yet I can’t help but second-guess myself when someone posts on her wall.…It can contribute to feelings of you not really ‘knowing’ your partner.”
Muise and her colleagues believe that the association between Facebook use and feelings of jealousy can be attributed to the access of personal information that otherwise would not be disclosed.
But does increased Facebook use cause increased feelings of jealousy or do feelings of jealousy cause increased use of Facebook?
Often times, users of Facebook add not only current sexual or romantic partners to their friends list, but also add former partners. As the Muise and her colleagues explain, “Ambiguous scenes involving a partner and contact with past romantic and sexual partners are among the common triggers of jealousy in romantic relationships, and these ambiguous scenes are a regular occurrence on Facebook.”
“The majority of participants (74.6%) were at least somewhat likely to add previous romantic or sexual partners as friends on Facebook, and 78.9% reported that their partner has added previous romantic or sexual partners as friends.”
Alternatively, feelings of jealous may result in spending more time on Facebook, since it allows one to monitor the online behaviors of their partner.
Muise, A., Christofides, E. & Desmarais, S. (2009). More information than you ever wanted: does facebook bring out the green-eyed monster of jealousy? CyberPsychology & Behavior, Vol 12, No 4.