The green-eyed monster sent you a friend request

“Nothing is official until it’s Facebook official.”

How many times have you heard that and scoffed at the idea? Or maybe this is something you truly believe. Unfortunately Facebook doesn’t just magically make things official. It’s merely a website existing on the Internet. It’s hardly even a tangible thing.

The social networking site updated its fan page’s status on Feb. 4, announcing its eighth birthday. The population of Facebook is already almost triple the population of the United States. According to Gregory Lyons, a senior analyst at iCrossing, a digital marketing agency, Facebook will reach the one-billion user mark by August later this year.

Simply put: Facebook is huge. It’s an uncontestable fact – even your mom is on it.

Many people find themselves constantly checking Facebook. Seeing what their friends are doing, what their significant other is doing, what their ex-significant other may be doing.

Who is your ex in a relationship with now? Do you think they like their new girlfriend better than they liked you?

Who is that girl commenting on your boyfriend’s wall? She looks like a floozy. Why is she talking to him? What is he doing?

Effect on relationshipsA study published this past November in the psychological journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking suggests that a high amount of Facebook usage is more likely to interrupt a person’s daily tasks, and negatively influence relationship outcomes such as jealousy and dissatisfaction.
Photo illustration by April Lamb

Facebook has changed the way we do relationships

A study published this past November in the psychological journal, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking looked at 342 Australian undergraduate students and their Facebook usage.

The study suggests that a high amount of Facebook usage is more likely to interrupt a person’s daily tasks, and negatively influence relationship outcomes such as jealousy and dissatisfaction.

The study goes on to suggest as well that Facebook may aggravate an already jealous lover and that that attachment anxiety also has strong links to romantic jealousy.

Michael Haggstrom, a Calgarian psychotherapist, also suggests that Facebook’s effects depend on the individuals’ assurance in themselves, and their social interactions.

Haggstrom says: “People go and check things online either because they were cheated on before and they’re insecure about it, or because they’re not sure about the relationship. Often their intuition does serve them well and can be right, at least about something.”

Facebook allows for instant gratification, which may contribute to thoughts of cheating, Haggstrom suggests. He says you can always find someone on the Internet to listen to you.

“It’s easy to listen online when you don’t have to pay bills, talk about difficult things, or take out the trash together. It’s so easy to believe that the grass is greener on the other side and then become resentful of what you have creating a false reality of what you think you have online.”

“Cheating is so easy nowadays, so I think it’s normal that all of us are going to have a little more sense of a threat response happening,” Haggstrom says.

“We feel like we need to protect our relationship because infidelity happens much easier today.”

Are they cheating?

Haggstrom says that if you can see members of the opposite sex openly posting on your significant other’s Facebook wall or commenting on their pictures, it’s highly unlikely that they’re actually cheating with these people, if at all.

He warns instead that those who actually cheat are much more savvy suggesting that: “Cheaters like to keep things hidden and secret. There’s an enjoyment behind getting away with something.

“Those people know how to look squeaky clean on the outside. They are the ones where you may never know.”

Facebook, Haggstrom suggests, forces people to look at things more honestly and openly. Before things could happen more secretly, but now everything is public.

In order to keep a relationship running smoothly, Haggstrom says transparency is key: “If an old girlfriend is texting or emailing you or whatever, trying to get in contact with you, talk to your partner about it rather than letting her or him find out about it. It’s always better to be up front about it.”

If a couple is in a serious committed relationship, or a marriage, Haggstrom also suggests sharing passwords with each other to promote transparency in the relationship.

What is Facebook for?

Haggstrom says that many people use Facebook to create stories. “We get quite bored,” he says. “So we go, ‘Hey I’ll stalk my old girlfriend or boyfriend,’ and ‘Ooh I can’t believe it,’ we just like to be in stories and drama, it’s a part of our life.”

At the end of the day, Facebook is a social networking tool, and Haggstrom suggests that we must use it as such, “I encourage people to be selfish when you’re on there.”

“Know why you’re doing it and what you’re doing it for,” he says. “Know which people you’re not going to engage with and which ones you aren’t, and how much you’re going to attribute time to it, and try and stick to it. You still have the rest of your life still to live, so use it.”

alamb@cjournal.ca