Popular social networking site Facebook is cited in one in five divorces in the United States, a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers suggests.
As for the lawyers themselves, more than 80pc of them reported an increase in the number of people using social media to engage in extramarital affairs.
“We’re coming across it more and more,” clinical psychologist Steven Kimmons, PhD, of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ilinois, told Newswise.
“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.”
Most people enter into online relationships with innocent intentions, Kimmons said, such as wanting to say hello or catch up with an old friend or someone they once dated.
It comes down to the amount of contact two people have in any relationship, be it online or offline, Kimmons added. The more contact two people have, the likelier they will begin to develop feelings for one another.
To safeguard their current relationships, Kimmons recommended users of social media examine their motivations for using social networking sites, as well as taking a close look at who they communicate with most online. For example, is mostly males versus females, or is one friend favoured over another? Also, Kimmons said, plain and simple, don’t engage in intimate conversations with anyone who is not your significant other.
Other recommendations Kimmons had for couples using social media included:
- Telling online friends from the start that you’re only looking to establish old contacts with people to find out how they’re doing
- Placing the computer in a common area in the house or apartment
- Setting parameters around how much time and when couples are online each day.