Facebook (FB): The Marriage Killer?

Posted by · May 21, 2012 4:10 pm

You know what they say: Half of all marriages end in divorce. Now, regardless of what you may think about that statistic’s validity, the question that should naturally follow such a staggering claim is, to put it simply, “Why?” And while some causes may be more obvious—unfaithfulness, financial troubles, etc.—one quickly rising culprit for marital failure may come as a bit of a surprise (or maybe it won’t).

After making its way into one of every five divorce filings as early as 2009, the newly public Facebook is now becoming an even more widespread influence in the separation of married couples.

“I see Facebook issues breaking up marriages all the time,” notes divorce attorney Gary Traystman, pointing to Facebook’s involvement in 60 percent of the annual split-ups in which things like browser history, text messages, and email activity are admitted as evidence.

And he’s not alone. Such a trend has been noticed by more than 80 percent of American divorce lawyers, notes the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which has witnessed a spike in social-media-related divorce cases.

But why?

“Affairs happen with a lightning speed on Facebook,” explains author K. Jason Krafsky, who co-authored the book Facebook and Your Marriage with his wife. Whereas a typical affair might take months or years to grow into a marriage-compromising problem, he continues, “On Facebook, they happen in just a few clicks.”

Whether it’s reconnecting with an old fling or summoning that computer-generated boldness to approach (a.k.a. “friend”) a mere acquaintance, affairs are just a few clicks away thanks to Facebook and other social media.

“It puts temptation in the path of people who would never in a million years risk having an affair,” Krafsky suggests.

Such a conclusion is validated by earlier observations made by Loyola psychologist Steven Kimmons, Ph.D., who describes Facebook as more of a catalyst for divorce than an inherent marriage killer:

We’re coming across it more and more…One spouse connects online with someone they knew from high school. The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook. Within a short amount of time, the sharing of personal stories can lead to a deepened sense of intimacy, which in turn can point the couple in the direction of physical contact. I don’t think these people typically set out to have affairs. A lot of it is curiosity. They see an old friend or someone they dated and decide to say “hello” and catch up on where that person is and how they’re doing.

In other words, convenience—not maliciousness—plays the prominent role in Facebook affairs.

“The difference with Facebook is it feels safe, innocent, and private,” suggests Georgia attorney and American Bar Association chair Randy Kessler. “People put an enormous amount of incriminating stuff out there voluntarily.”

Therefore, it seems unfair to characterize Facebook as some sort of marriage killer. While it may provide a fast track to unfaithfulness in some respects, those determined to cheat will cheat regardless of Facebook’s role in the matter.

But then again, what’s to be said of those who would not otherwise have cheated without that extra helping of digital courage?

“It all comes down to love and fidelity,” argues Kessler. “Some people just have it. And they are the lucky ones.”

What do you think? Share your thoughts and perspectives in the comments below.

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