You might want to lay off of social media -- for your relationship's sake. People who use Facebook more than once a day are more likely to report relationship conflicts arising from social media, according to a new study in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. And even worse -- those conflicts had a significant correlation with negative relationship outcomes, like cheating, breaking up, or getting divorced.
Researchers surveyed 205 Facebook users about how often they use the site, if they've had Facebook-related conflicts with a current or former partner, and if these conflicts ever led to cheating or breaking up. On average, people were using Facebook daily, so the researchers looked at any users who logged on more often than that. The result: People who spent more time on the site had more Facebook-related conflicts and negative relationship outcomes. One noteworthy finding: these results only held for couples in relationships of three years or less -- so it may be the case that Facebook use is most threatening for less-matured bonds.
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"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," says lead study author Russell Clayton, doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri. "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."
But you don't need to deactivate your account to have a healthy relationship. Follow these rules to make sure social media habits aren't sabotaging your bond:
Rule #1: Avoid the premature relationship-status change
Relationship experts agree that the worst social media faux-pas is becoming "Facebook official" before you're actually official. "You need to have that conversation before you change it," says Wendy Walsh, PhD, author of The 30-Day Love Detox. You should also hold off on posting about a date or sharing photos of you two together before you've become a couple. "When a relationship is in its fragile dating stage, it's very important to have privacy. Intimacy needs privacy to grow," says Walsh.
Rule: #2: Stop mindlessly browsing
In this study, just logging more time on Facebook was linked with more conflict. So it's smart to limit your daily posting and tweeting -- especially if you're often sneaking a peak at your newsfeed while you're together. Even if you're just mindlessly scrolling through your feed while watching TV with your partner, it can give off the impression that they're not as important to you, says Christie Hartman, PhD, author of Find the Love of Your Life Online. "Be aware of what you're paying attention to," says Hartman. "If they start complaining or showing annoyance, it's a sign that you've gone too far."
Rule #3: Log off when you're upset
If you just had a fight or you're going through a rough patch, step away from the computer (or your phone). Since your newsfeed can be filled with everything from humble bragging couples to photos of your (fitter than ever) ex, it can be filled with landmines that make you feel bad about your relationship -- or worse. "It's really easy to log on and imagine that there might be a bigger, better deal out there," says Walsh. Plus, you may end up shooting off a passive-aggressive rant that you'll later regret, says Hartman.
Rule #4: Friend exes with caution
One of the riskiest features of Facebook is that it makes it super easy to connect and communicate with an ex or old crush, which is why the common debate -- can exes stay friends? -- is only amplified online.
While you probably don't want to make a point of friending an ex after you've started dating a new person, it's important to tread carefully even if one or both of you are already friends with your exes. Stay cautious about your interactions with them, says Walsh. Her suggestion for staying on your toes: "Imagine that someone has the ability to cut and paste whatever you type and post it publicly." The bottom line: Don't be fooled by a false sense of privacy online.
Rule #5: Brag a little bit
Don't worry: Not all social media habits are relationship kryptonite. In fact, couples who regularly post profile pictures with their partners and share things about their relationship online are also more likely to feel happier about their bonds, according to a new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Hartman says that a little bragging online is totally healthy for your relationship: "It shows that you aren't on Facebook ignoring your partner -- you're including them." So feel free to tweet about your boyfriend's awesome promotion or Instagram the flowers he surprised you with. Just don't go overboard, warns Hartman, or it won't seem sincere.
More from Women's Health:
- How to Create an Awesome Online Dating Profile
- The One Person You NEED to Unfriend on Facebook
- How to Improve Your Social Media Presence
- 5 Social Media Mistakes That Mess With Your Career
- The WORST Email You Can Send
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Date 10-09-07, Duration 2:23, Views 294998