Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

Summary: Facebook is cited in 33 percent of divorces in the United Kingdom. This is for the year 2011: the statistic increased from 20 percent for the year 2009. Will it be over 50 percent by 2015?

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Facebook is increasingly being blamed as a reason for, or as evidence when, filing for divorce. In 2011, 33 percent of behavior petitions contained the name of the social network; this is a whopping increase from 2009, when only 20 percent mentioned Facebook.

The results come a survey carried out by the UK divorce website Divorce-Online: the first instance in December 2009 and a follow-up in December 2011. In both cases, 5,000 petitions were queried by the website.

The most common reasons where Facebook was cited as evidence have not changed. They were almost always related to a spouses behavior with the opposite sex, although this included using Facebook to make comments about their exes once they had separated, as well as using their Walls as weapons in their divorce battle. Here are the top three reasons:

  1. Inappropriate messages to members of the opposite sex.
  2. Separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other.
  3. Facebook friends reporting spouse's behavior.

By comparison, Twitter only appeared in 20 petitions as part of behavior allegations, meaning it could only be blamed for 0.4 percent of the cases. Once again though, the platform was used as a communication tool to make comments about exes.

"Social networking has become the primary tool for communication and is taking over from text and e-mail in my opinion," a Divorce-Online spokesperson said in a statement. "If someone wants to have an affair or flirt with the opposite sex then the easiest place to do it. Also the use of Facebook to make comments about ex partners to friends has become extremely common with both sides using Facebook to vent their grievances against each other. People need to be careful what they write on their walls as the courts are seeing these posts being used in financial disputes and children cases as evidence."

What's important here is not the actual fraction of divorces (33 percent) Facebook is being blamed for, but the fact it is growing (from 20 percent to 33 percent). Back in December 2009, Facebook was blamed for 20 percent of divorces in the US. It's impossible to rate the accuracy of these numbers without analyzing every single divorce case in both countries.

Facebook is not responsible for these divorces: already-strained marriages are bound to break with or without the service. Still, a couple doesn't have to be experiencing marital difficulties for an online relationship to develop from mere online chatting into a full-fledged affair.

In the end, Facebook is a social tool. For single people, social networks can help them meet that special someone. Even for marriages, social networks can help further along a relationship. Just like with any other social medium, however, even the most innocent of intentions can turn ugly with improper use.

You don't need to be a psychologist to realize that Facebook can accelerate the process. Stories of people whose marriages were destroyed by affairs that began on social networks abound on the Internet.

Remind yourself why you're using a given service and regularly assess your intentions with the people you're frequently communicating with. Facebook may not call itself a dating website, but hundreds of millions use it to connect on varying levels. Intimate conversations, even online ones, should only be reserved for your significant other.

See also:

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

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21 comments
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  • Facebook named in divorce

    No matter what you say Facebook is only a message service, your actions are your responsibility.
    Jaipo
    • Fixed

      @Jaipo <br><br>No matter what you say Facebook is only a divorce service, your legal fees are your responsibility.
      klumper
      • Fixed again

        @klumper

        No matter what you say Facebook is a social networking tool, your actions are your own responsibility.
        athynz
    • RE: Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

      @Jaipo
      Oh please. That's like saying "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Or "just don't eat the sweets and you won't gain weight."

      Human nature is human nature. It's no different from locking a naked man and a naked woman in a room together for a year and saying "no touching." Putting temptation in people's faces and facilitating reckless behavior is irresponsible.

      If Facebook is "only a message service", then alcohol is "only a beverage" and Hustler magazine is "only art".
      acro47
      • RE: Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

        @acro47
        Except that people do kill people. I know plenty of people who own guns and have never shot anyone. Likewise I know many people who don't eat sweets.

        Facebook is just a message service, but it happens to be the most vibrant, multi layered one around right now. In the past water cooler chat would have filled the role that Facebook is filling now. Facebook isn't tempting people with other people anymore than an old fashioned ice cream social would. Blaming the technology is nothing short of immature excuse making. People need to man up and accept that *they* make the choices, *they* behave one way or another, and that if the community talks about their behavior, it's not the communities fault when the crap hits the fan. It's the fault of those who engaged in the bad behavior to begin with.

        p.s. Alcohol is only a beverage and Hustler is only a magazine. If you abuse them, you need to accept that responsibility, too. Stop blaming others and grow up.
        use_what_works_4_U
      • RE: Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

        @acro47 - Seriously?

        You blame Facebook for humans not having enough personal strength and internal fortitude to do the right thing?

        Well before Facebook came along my former spouse managed to find enough time to cheat on me, this was in the mid-1980s, well before Mark Zuckerberg knew what a computer was. Might as well blame Mark Zuckerberg for all the infidelity in the world.
        PollyProteus
      • Don't blame the people who commit the act - blame the tool?

        @acro47 So, you're saying we shouldn't blame the murderer for killing a person, because violence is "human nature?" I'd love to see you offer to let a serial killer live with you, rather than going to prison. After all, it wasn't their fault, right? It was the gun's fault.

        We suppress our basal instincts ("human nature") every day, all day long in order to live within constructs acceptable by society. We don't beat the hell out of our bosses for making us work late. We don't shoot the clerk at the store and take whatever we want. We don't throw down every attractive person we meet and molest them. We also don't excuse other humans who violate these societal constructs. All of those things would be human nature. Cheating on your mate simply because it's "human nature" is the most neanderthal excuse I've ever heard. Doing it and then blaming a social networking site for your actions is beyond ridiculous. I'd love to see you beat somebody to death with a baseball bat and then offer the defense in court that it was the bat's fault, not yours because it's "human nature" to want to beat somebody who pisses you off and the bat just made it too easy to resist.

        Life is a series of choices which create alternative futures. If you make a stupid choice, you should accept responsibility and live with the consequences.
        BillDem
  • Not to defend Facebook .....

    ... but Facebook is not forcing anybody to commit adultery.

    Claiming that Facebook is the cause of a divorce is the same as claiming that the phone company is to blame for setting up a "booty call" or blaming the paper and pen companies for the sexually explicit letter written to/from a lover.

    Facebook is a "communication device", not a facilitator.

    People commit adultery because they don't have any respect for the person they are with. So don't blame the device ... blame the adulterer.
    wackoae
    • Agreed

      @wackoae
      [i]Facebook is not forcing anybody to commit adultery. [/i]

      But Facebook is forcing people - in this case, lots of hapless Brits - to commit divorce. Time to blame the device ... that brings the divorce. [simple booty math]
      klumper
      • Disagree

        @klumper <br>I agree with wackoae, and with you about the adultery. Your contention that Facebook is forcing the divorces is laughable, though. Adulterous behavior has been going on , and has been discussed, for as long as marriage has existed. In the past it was the water cooler chat, or the gossip at the hair salon. The only thing different about Facebook is that the discussion is instantly public instead of needing to percolate through back channels.<br><br>As for forcing the divorce? NO! Divorce is a choice like any other. There are other options, counselling for example. When someone decides that they are ready to give up it is *THAT PERSON'S DECISION* just like it's their decision when they decide to cheat on their spouse. Stop blaming the messenger. We need to be responsible for our own decisions again.
        use_what_works_4_U
  • RE: Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

    Blame Skype.
    Return_of_the_jedi
  • Stupid question

    Has the divorce rate in the UK gone up by half since Facebook was introduced, or is it instead the case that FB abuse has emerged as a prominent symptom of already existing marital problems?
    John L. Ries
    • Straight answer

      @John L. Ries <br><br>The divorce rate in the UK has skyrocketed once Facebook was introduced. The Tea Act aside, you can't blame the Brits on this one.
      klumper
      • Incomplete answer (at best)

        @klumper
        Where are you getting that information on the rate of divorce in the UK from? This article talks about the rate of blame given to Facebook rising drastically, but I don't recall reading where the actual rate of divorce went up. If this is truly the case I would love to read up on it. Do you have a link, or any other quotable source?
        use_what_works_4_U
  • Where will it end?

    Headline News: [b]Facebook blamed for a third of the divorces in the UK[/b]

    Headline News: [b]British Facebook users are drunk in 76% of their photos[/b]

    Headline News: [b]Facebook finishes off teetering British Empire for good[/b]
    klumper
  • RE: Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

    I hope it won't be long till FB crashes and burns!
    All these pathetic people with a baby bottle up their butts.
    Cedaredge
    • RE: Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

      @Cedaredge What is your fascination with people who have something up their rectums? Sounds pretty perverted.
      athynz
  • RE: Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

    Not that I am specifically making apologize for Facebook.....more that I am standing for let's be honest about this....Facebook has not made one soul in the world do anything they wern't already willing to do.....made it easier, maybe, made it happen.....no way buddy !! Own you actions folks, don't blame the neighbors!
    steveparamore@...
  • RE: Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

    This article is like blaming a mirror for your bad hair cut. Facebook doesn't force people to send inappropriate messages. People ratted out their friend's bad behavior before facebook. People always say nasty things during separations. Facebook is just a different media.
    BDazzler
  • RE: Facebook blamed for a third of divorces in the UK

    Although FB is an alleged social network, it seems, strangely, that it has a de-socializing effect.
    Marriage is the chief cause of divorce.
    Go figure.
    da philster