Social media can be very useful in terms of helping people maintain relationships with friends that are far away, or connect with people who have similar interests. There are, however, other ways in which people use social media, which may have an impact on their lives offline.
It’s been reported that Facebook has been cited in a third of divorce cases as contributing to the relationship breakdown. However, simply using Facebook or other social media channels doesn’t mean that your partner is cheating, but there are a few things to consider if you’re worried about your partner’s use of social media.
Is it an affair or ‘technoference’?
Research which has looked at stories of affairs on Facebook has found that there are several warning signs which may point to a possible affair:
- Gut feelings - many people said that they had a “gut feeling” that something was wrong or that something had changed in the relationship
- Changes in behaviour – some people noticed changes in their partner's behaviour, such as spending more time on Facebook
- Suspicious or secretive behaviour - Additionally, they noticed that their partners behaved in a secretive way. Examples include closing windows on their device when the other person entered the room and hiding text messages or conversations.
It’s important to remember that these behaviours alone don't mean that a person is having an affair. If your partner is spending a lot of time on their phone, laptop or tablet, it could also be a case of “technoference”: the interference of technology in relationships.
We’ve all experienced interactions with people that are interrupted by a notification of some kind, but research suggests that the interference of technology in our relationships can negatively impact on communication. It can also lead to lower levels of life and relationship satisfaction.
If you think that your partner’s use of social media is causing your relationship to suffer, it’s a good idea to talk to them about it.
Don't jump to conclusions
Research has shown that many people in relationships agree that the behaviours that constitute cheating offline, also apply online. However, it’s important that you don't jump to conclusions about your partner’s behaviour. A few things to consider are:
- Don't assume that your partner's idea of cheating is the same as yours
- Don't assume your partner knows how you feel about their social media use
- Do have a conversation about these topics; negotiate what’s acceptable behaviour on social media for both of you
- Tell your partner how their use of social media is affecting you and your experience of the relationship
More information can be found on our ‘why is it easy to cheat online’ page.
To see the full list of research references which have informed the content on this page, please see our research references section.
Page authored by Yessica Apolo (Marriage Care)