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Aug 05, 2013 03:52 AM EDT

Excessive 'Facebook-ing' Can Derail Romantic Relationships, Study

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Excessive 'Facebook-ing' can lead to negative relationship outcomes including emotional and physical cheating, breakups and divorce, according to a study conducted by the researchers from the University of Missouri, University of Hawaii and St. Mary's University.

The study will be published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

Russell Clayton, a journalism doctoral student at the University of Missouri, said that Facebook and other social networking websites have changed the way people create and maintain relationships. These social networking sites that have reduced the communication gap can also spur conflicts with one's romantic partners.

"Social networks have become the third wheel of relationships," Clayton said. "With anything, if you use it the wrong way or if you use it too much, that has consequences for relationships."

Clayton, along with Alexander Nagurney, an instructor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and Jessica R. Smith, a doctoral student at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, surveyed Facebook users aged 18 to 82 years. Participants were asked to complete a 16-question online survey that enquired a user's Facebook time and how often they signed in. The survey also urged respondents if any conflicts had aroused between their current or former partners as a result of using the social networking site.

 "Previous research has shown that the more a person in a romantic relationship uses Facebook, the more likely they are to monitor their partner's Facebook activity more stringently, which can lead to feelings of jealousy," Clayton said. "Facebook-induced jealousy may lead to arguments concerning past partners. Also, our study found that excessive Facebook users are more likely to connect or reconnect with other Facebook users, including previous partners, which may lead to emotional and physical cheating."

Clayton also said that the findings particularly hold true for newer relationships.

"These findings held only for couples who had been in relationships of three years or less," Clayton said. "This suggests that Facebook may be a threat to relationships that are not fully matured. On the other hand, participants who have been in relationships for longer than three years may not use Facebook as often, or may have more matured relationships, and therefore Facebook use may not be a threat or concern."

Clayton said that the only solution to avoid damage in a romantic relationship is to reduce or limit one's Facebook use or other social networking sites.

"Although Facebook is a great way to learn about someone, excessive Facebook use may be damaging to newer romantic relationships," Clayton said. "Cutting back to moderate, healthy levels of Facebook usage could help reduce conflict, particularly for newer couples who are still learning about each other."

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