June 2016

“Unmarried”: Why Facebook May Have Caused Your Divorce

“It’s not official until it’s on Facebook”. Changing a relationship status on social networking sites from “single” to “engaged”, and then “married”, is commonly known as “making things FBO” (Facebook Official). This is an exciting event for many couples. However, few consider the possibility that social networking could be the very reason their status will change once again, this time from “married” to “divorced”!

Recent data suggests that social networking use is now a factor in one in seven divorces. The Pew Research Center says 65% of all adults use at least one social networking account at least one hour per week. The same study found that 90% of young adults ages 18-29 use social networking, as do 77% of adults ages 30-49.[1] Unfortunately, in some cases this use has gone from casually keeping in touch with relatives and friends, to a full-blown addiction consuming and destroying people’s lives.

The ramifications of being addicted to social networking include severe depression, lack of sleep, anxiety, loss of employment, and the inability to resolve conflicts through interpersonal communication skills.[2] And sadly, social networking addiction is growing fast. Acronyms such as “FOMO” (fear of missing out), “FOBO” (fear of being offline) and “NoMo” (no mobile) are huge concerns for social networking addicts. As seen with Pavlov’s dogs, social networking addiction is conditioned on a rewards theory as the brain releases dopamine in response to growing anticipation to hearing the notification, like Pavlov ringing his bell, that an online army of friends and family has commented, or liked, a recent post.

Studies have found a correlation between divorce and time spent on social media.
Studies have found a direct correlation between romantic conflict and time user spent on social media in the U.S. 

Social networking can create cravings for immediate attention, instant gratification, and the lustful possibility of an adulterous affair with a past lover or casual acquaintance. This addiction to social networking can create doubt and jealousy, consume large portions of couples’ available time, and leave a trail of chaos that turns into divorce proceedings.

This social networking addiction is increasingly being cited as a major factor for marriages disintegrating and ultimately ending in divorce. According to HG.org, a recent study found that people who use Facebook more than once per hour are more likely to experience Facebook-related conflict with their romantic partner.[3] Another study found that compulsive social networking users reported greater conflict with their partners, more feelings of exclusion and concealment during the relationship, lower levels of commitment, lower feelings of passion and intimacy, and less disclosure.[4]

Consider some intriguing statistics from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers: 92% of AAML attorneys cited an increase in cases using evidence taken from smart phones during the past three years, and 94% noted an increase in text message evidence. In 2010, 81% of divorce attorneys surveyed said they’d seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence in the five years prior. The attorneys said Facebook was the number one source for finding online evidence, with 66% admitting they’d found evidence by combing the site.

We at PJI Law regularly encounter northern Virginia marriages destroyed, directly or indirectly, completely or partially, by Facebook and other forms of social media. This includes cases where social media was simply the vehicle through which marital betrayal was discovered. In all such situations, our experience in the impact and evidentiary value of social media in divorce cases puts us in a position of strength when serving our clients in the courtroom. To schedule a confidential consultation, you can call us at (703) 865-6100 or email us at info@pjilaw.com.

[1] http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/social-media-addiction-peak_us_56ab9360e4b0010e80e9c71e

[3] https://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=27803

[4] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237094566_Cheating_Breakup_and_Divorce_Is_Facebook_Use_to_Blame