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:
- Inappropriate messages to members of the opposite sex.
- Separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other.
- 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.