Some people are social media gurus. Some are relationship experts.
Jessie Smith is both.
by Andrew Festa
The St. Mary’s doctoral student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program recently co-authored a study with University of Missouri graduate student Russell Clayton titled Cheating, Breakup, and Divorce: Is Facebook Use to Blame?, which was published in 2013 by the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.
Naturally, we were curious.
Q. What sparked your interest in this subject?
Russell Clayton and I saw a lot of our friends experiencing relationship problems because of conflicts arising because of Facebook.
Q. Bet you have heard some juicy stories. Any you can share?
A friend of mine was in a long-term, long-distance relationship, and she found out her boyfriend was cheating when she saw pictures he posted of himself with another girl. Then, instead of calling to break up with her, he just changed his relationship status. Now, was Facebook to blame — who knows? But it definitely led to conflict.
Q. What are some of your most interesting findings?
The more you use Facebook, the more likely you will experience Facebook-related conflict, which leads to negative relationship outcomes. However, this is only the case for people who are, or have been, in relationships of three years or less.
Q. Is Twitter safer?
Russell Clayton just ran the study on Twitter and found the same results except that the length of the relationship did not make a difference. This means our findings quite possibly apply to any form of social media.
Q. What is next for your research?
Right now I am a part-time graduate research assistant for Jason Northrup, Ph.D., and he and I are running a study looking at the positive side of the coin. Are there things satisfied couples are doing on Facebook that are actually facilitating their relationships?
Q. What’s been your favorite part of this?
My friends, family, co-workers and peers always tell me what they have been through because of Facebook. It just reiterates to me that this research is very relevant in our day and age. To be a part of discovering what is better to do, or not do, in your relationship on social media sites is very exciting.
Q. Any advice for social media-savvy couples?
Don’t be consumed by the online world. Make sure you set boundaries and that those boundaries are discussed and agreed upon with your partner. Use Facebook to help your relationship, not hurt it.