Under the Hood

Browsing Through Facebook Profiles Won't Inspire You To Cheat, But A Walk Down Memory Lane Will

computer use
Social media isn't as big of a threat to relationships as we think it is. Pixabay Public Domain

Humans have been cheating since the beginning of time, but now social media makes the behavior easier than ever before. However, according to a recent study, social media sites such as Facebook do not pose nearly as big of a threat to your romantic relationship as your own memory and imagination.  

For a recent study, a team of researchers at Indiana University examined the role that Facebook played in the desire to have a relationship with someone other than your partner. A sample of 371 young unmarried undergraduate students recruited from an introductory psychology course volunteered to partake in the study. The students were asked randomly to complete a survey designed to help determine exactly how much looking through romantically desirable profiles on a person’s Facebook friends list could adversely affect their current relationship.

The results revealed that, although Facebook can act as a memory primer for sexual alternatives, the alternatives we keep in our memories (such as Dave from accounting or that cute Starbucks barista) are the ones that are most threatening to our existing committed partner. Even just thinking about someone who they were romantically interested in was enough to lower an individual's relationship satisfaction and commitment to their partners. Facebook did seem to facilitate the recognition of potential sexual partners significantly for men, but the team was surprised to find that recognizing potential partners from Facebook actually lowered the volunteer's opinion of them.

Although it’s not exactly clear why memory was the biggest threat to romantic relationship, the researchers have a few hypotheses. First, they suggest that the sheer overload of profiles available on Facebook actually lower the general desirability of all users' profiles. The researchers also suggested that, for many of the volunteers, the most desirable alternative in their social circle, or in other words their biggest crush, was not on their Facebook feed. This hypothesis was later proved true, but it is unclear whether purposely not befriending your real-life crush on social media was done to intentionally avoid temptations or to keep their relationship status hidden from those they secretly desire. Regardless of the reasoning, one thing seemed clear: Eliminating Facebook is not likely to help decrease adulterous attitudes.

“Long before technology emerged, we were cheating, breaking up, and divorcing because we found alternative partners,” the authors wrote. “With or without technology, we continue to do so, using our minds to store information about the potential partners who pose real threats to our romantic relationships.”

There are many different reasons why people cheat, with studies pointing to everything from genetic predisposition to making more money than your spouse. What’s clear about infidelity is that it’s not always a sign that something is wrong in the relationship.What may be even more surprising, however, is that despite the stress that infidelity can often put on relationships, it is not actually the main cause for divorce in the U.S., which is good news for anyone who may currently be going through a rough patch in their relationship.

Source: Drouin M, Miller DA, Dibble JL. Facebook or Memory-Which Is The Real Threat To Your Relationship. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 2015.

Loading...