PsychBook Research

Collecting and analysing psychological research on the most popular social networking site in the world today.

You don’t want to know how Facebook affects your relationships …

Facebook stalking? Dangerous? No!

This was the first Facebook-related psychological article I came across when I started teaching on the Cyberpsychology M.Sc. – ‘More information than you ever wanted: Does Facebook bring out the green-eyed monster of jealousy?’ (Muise, Christofides and Desmaris, 2009). Obviously, even with as ham-fisted a title as that (the authors steadfastly refuse to explain the empirical status of the afore-mentioned ogre), it’s still catchy enough to spark the interest of even such a celibate as myself.

And what did Amy, Emily and Serge find? Well, building on ‘anecdotal evidence’ and previous research (Lee & Boyer, 2007; Ellison, Steinfeld & Lampe, 2007) which makes the startling revelation that some of our Facebook friendships may be ‘superficial’ (perish the thought!), our intrepid cyberpsychologists found that time spent on Facebook predicted jealousy in Facebook relationships. Thus, the more time you spend on Facebook, the more likely you are to experience jealousy – which, I hear, does not make for a ‘psychologically healthy’ relationship.

What’s that you say? ‘I’m just checking out his profile, just to see what he’s up to …’ No! You’re stalking him! And thereby putting your relationship at risk! Psycho!

Really? Could this be true? Surely, in this sense, Facebook is only another tool used by, oh I don’t know nutters, psychopaths and Peeping Toms? Surely, normal, well-adjusted, people in mature relationships aren’t affected by this type of thing?

Well, no – not by Muise, Christofides and Desmaris’s (2009) data. By using a multiple regression across several factors – including gender, trait jealousy, personality and other relationship factors – time spent on Facebook was the most predictive of jealousy. What this should mean is that ‘naturally occurring’ jealousy has been taken care of, as well as the other factors. Plus, with their qualitative data seems to back up that finding – essentially, Facebook makes it really easy to stalk your partner with tons of ambiguous and regularly updated information. You know what it’s like when you see some random dude commenting on a picture of your girlfriend. As they put it themselves:

…Facebook may expose an individual to potentially jealousy-provoking information about their partner, which creates a feedback loop whereby heightened jealousy leads to increased surveillance of a partner’s Facebook page. Persistent surveillance results in further exposure to jealousy-provoking information. For many, the need for knowledge about their partner’s intent becomes indispensable … (Muise, Christofides and Desmaris, 2009, p. 443, emphasis added)

Ring any bells? Of course not, I didn’t think so …

However, while on the one hand, I don’t doubt the veracity of this finding – I’m pretty sure that Facebook does increase jealousy in relationships, to some degree – I have certain queries about this study. For one thing, I don’t wholly buy this multiple regression lark, and can’t understand why a simpler method wasn’t’ used. For another, only two items from the questionnaire are provided, and with a previously unpublished test, the whole thing should be provided – and the two that are given: ”How likely are you to become jealous after your partner has added an unknown member of the opposite sex?” and ”How likely are you to monitor your partner’s activities on Facebook?” could use re-wording, to say the least. Finally, given that it was carried out on the world’s psychological lab. rats (also known as undergraduate American college students), I’d be curious to see this study replicated in a different context. Because there’s no way that Facebook use increases jealousy in Irish relationships, no way at all!

A good study, not a great study. An interesting finding, but a pertinent one? For you? Maybe. Not me though!


Categories: Papers