From America to Indonesia, the headlines read, “Facebook is Causing 20 Percent of Today’s Divorces.”
“When I heard the statistic, I did some research to find its source,” said Jason Krafsky, co-author with his wife Kelli of Facebook and Your Marriage. “It turns out that an online divorce firm in the UK sent out a press release stating that Facebook was cited in 1-in-5 divorce petitions. What got lost in the hundreds of articles it sparked was the research came from only their divorce petition database.”
To add fuel to the fire, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed its 1,600 members and released a statement saying that 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years. With all of the media hype, what you did not hear was this: it was not a survey of all divorce attorneys, only their membership.
“There were additional pieces that created even more confusion,” Krafsky said. “Suffice it to say this was like a big game of worldwide gossip and by the time the big media guns picked up the story the headline read, ‘Facebook Blamed for One in Five Divorces in U.S.’ The truth is, there is no valid research, study or collection of data at this point that accurately reveals how many divorces have been caused by Facebook. Until someone does legitimate research, trying to attach a number or percentage to what is happening only fuels an urban myth that is blazing out of control.”
Clearly, Facebook impacts relationships of all kinds. Some marriages are breaking apart due to Facebook-related activity. Some married people use Facebook to live out their midlife crisis. Others are caught off guard with a surge of unexpected feelings and emotions when they friend and interact with an old flame. It can happen to the strongest of marriages.
“I remember the day my wife walked into the room and said, ‘Guess who I just friended on Facebook?’ I asked who, and she said, ‘My first love.’ There was something about that statement that just hit me wrong. I didn’t think Kelli would intentionally do anything inappropriate, but something in my gut said this wasn’t a good thing. It was shortly thereafter that we had a discussion about boundaries on Facebook to protect our marriage. We decided to unfriend past exes. This scenario prompted the writing of our book and launching our new blog, techlationships.com.”
The Krafskys warn people that if you don’t have good boundaries, Facebook and other forms of social networking are dangerous places to hang out.
“Couples need to talk face-to-face and set up guidelines for their online time to protect their relationship from cyber-threats,” Krafsky said. “It is not enough to have good intentions. Most affairs do not start because someone says to himself, ‘I think I’ll have an affair.’ They start out very innocently. Don’t fool yourself. You cannot friend an old flame and not take a trip down memory lane, thinking about what you did together in high school. We never forget that adolescent romantic love. Limit your time online and focus on taking your marriage relationship to the next level. While Facebook may not be the cause of 20 percent of all divorces, what some people are unknowingly doing through Facebook is undermining their marriage and putting their family at risk.”