Scientists examine why selfies are linked to lower-quality romantic relationships

Despite being created to bring people closer together, social media sites such as Facebook could be causing more damage to relationships than good. According to a recent study published in Telematics and Informatics, when people share pictures of themselves online it can create ‘selfie related conflicts’. Previous research has found that people become increasingly jealous the more their other half uses Facebook, suggesting that copious social media use reduces the quality of romantic relationships.

It is possible that our ever increasing ability to effortlessly view other people’s information online makes it easier to search for and find a new partner, which leads to a higher turnover of romantic relationships. Additionally, apps like Snapchat where images are only displayed for a matter of seconds can be used for sharing provocative pictures and flirting, which has been found to incite more jealousy between partners than Facebook.

It is established that social media use can cause jealousy between partners, but it is not established what specifically about social media causes feelings of jealousy to arise. The authors of the study, Daniel Halpern (Universidad Catolica de Chile), James E. Katz (Boston University) and Camilla Cattill (Universidad Catolica de Chile) conducted two online surveys that were completed by 305 Chilean adults over a two-year period. The first survey was concerned with jealousy, how frequently individuals posted selfies and how people go about presenting an ideal version of themselves online. The second survey (completed one year after the first) measured social media related conflicts and the quality of relationships.

The results showed that the level of jealousy between romantic partners increased with the amount of selfies that were posted on social media sites. Additionally, photo related conflicts as a result of posting selfies negatively affected the quality of the relationship. It was also found that the more selfies an individual posts on social media, the more likely it is that they are trying to create an idealized persona of themselves for social media connections to see.

The study brings to light the negative effect that social media can have on romantic relationships over time. It may be the case that visual communication compared to other forms is more prone to the damaging effects of over sharing. The saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ comes to mind. It seems that although communication is important in a relationship, consistent selfie posting could be ‘too much communication’.