The Internet and Social Media: Do They Bring Marriages Closer Together or Tear Them Apart?

Changing Relationships in a Technology-Saturated World

Married couples struggle every day with balancing work and family life, making tough financial decisions, and sharing child-rearing responsibilities. At times, juggling it all can seem impossible and the overwhelming stress leads some couples to contemplate divorce.

Now, add to the mix the effects that the Internet and social media have on the way we interact with each other and how relationships are formed and maintained. These effects that the Internet and social media have had on our relationships are now being studied by researchers. In some studies they are seen as a vehicle that fosters relationships and brings couples closer together, while in others they are seen as major factors that contribute to the disintegration of marriages. Who is correct?

According to a study conducted by Dr. Bernie Hogan of the Oxford Internet Institute, too much social media activity may actually cause damage to relationships. The study tested the theory of “media multiplexity.” Media multiplexity is the ability to communicate through multiple communications channels. The theory suggests that there is an obvious connection between the number of media channels we use to communicate, how often we use them, and how strong our relationships are as a result.

More than 24,000 married couples participated in the research. They used 10 media channels. The findings suggest that those couples using more media did not have any greater relationship satisfaction, and in some instances actually had less satisfaction. The conclusion drawn is that there may be some kind of limit on the number of communications channels we can tolerate using before they start to cause problems to the relationship.

In another report published by The Pew Research Internet Project, the researchers looked at how couples in committed relationships use technology in their everyday lives and also how couples feel technology has added to or taken away from a sense of intimacy or closeness with their partner.

According to the report, technology plays a very significant role in the lives of couples. Among those who are married or in a committed relationship:

  • Eighty-eight percent use the Internet;
  • Seventy-one percent use social networking sites; and
  • Ninety-three percent have a cell phone.

What Is the overall impact of technology on long term relationships?

  • Seventy-two percent of the couples say the Internet has “no real impact at all” on their relationship. Ten percent say the Internet has had a “major impact” on their relationship. Seventeen percent say that it has had a “minor impact”; and
  • Seventy-four percent of the couples who report that the Internet had an impact on their relationship say the impact was positive. Twenty percent said the impact was mostly negative. Four percent said it was both positive and negative.

Is technology a positive force?

  • Twenty-five percent of couples who text have done so while they were with their partner;
  • Twenty-one percent of couples who own cell phones or use the Internet have felt closer to their partner because of messages they have sent each other online or via text message;
  • Nine percent have resolved a quarrel with their partner online or by text message that they were having trouble doing in person;
  • Sixty-seven percent of couples who use the Internet shared the password to one or more of their online accounts with partner;
  • Twenty-seven percent of couples who use the Internet have an email account that they share with their partner;
  • Eleven percent of these couples have an online calendar that they share; and
  • Eleven percent of couples who use social networking sites share a social media profile.

Is technology a negative force?

  • Twenty-five percent of couples who own cell phones have felt their partner was distracted by their cell phone when they were together;
  • Eight percent of couples who use the Internet have had an argument with their partner about the amount of time one of them was online; and
  • Four percent of couples who use the Internet have gotten upset at something that they found out their spouse or partner was doing online.

Overall Conclusions

Most couples say that the Internet has had no real impact on their relationship. However, for those who did say there was an impact, that impact is overwhelmingly positive.

For younger adults and those in relatively new relationships, technology can be a source of frustration and distraction despite the fact that it also provides them new avenues for intimacy.

Resources

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