More Facebook & Divorce
Countless articles have appeared, and continue to appear in the press and online concerning the Facebook social networking site and its influence on divorces. A few years ago the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) made big news when its members identified Facebook as the main source of evidence in contested divorce cases. People also took notice when AAML surveys found that nearly 80% of its member divorce lawyers said they were definitely seeing more divorces involving social media and collecting most of their evidence of infidelity from online social networking sites like Facebook.
Some have argued that Facebook is really just another way for individuals to initiate extramarital affairs which would have happened anyway. Facebook and other social media simply make cheating easier than the older tools like telephones and mailboxes. Even though technology and social change can change quickly in our mad world, there is no real evidence that suggests social mores have changed much in the last two decades. This is supported by the fact that the AAML also reports no significant increase in the overall United States divorce rate, which appears unaffected by the rise of social media.
Still, reports of marriage counselors and therapists blaming Facebook for causing divorce continue to appear. A recent press release from the UK PRWeb quoted marriage counselor J. Horst Hummel as saying the steady rise in popularity of social networks like Facebook is contributing to a rapid rise in divorce rates across Europe. Hummel agrees with the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in their predictions that while the number of individuals using social networking sites is rapidly increasingly, Facebook caused divorces are equally on the rise. However, Hummel also admitted that Facebook is a good way to keep in touch with the day to day lives of relatives, loved ones and friends, and that obviously, not all divorces are caused by social networks such as Facebook.
Facebook’s interactive features make it very easy for like-minded people to get in touch with one another and it is natural that it would become a medium for online dating, and ultimately online cheating too. As Hummel stated, “Unhappily married men and women now have a platform to meet others from home and therein lies the arguable route to increased discontent within a marriage as the respective partner begins to communicate with others who do seem to have more in common and so the problem ultimately worsens.”
Despite the apparent consensus that Facebook is destroying the institution of marriage, or at least hastening its demise, a columnist in the Wall Street Journal recently wrote that more people need to “divorce the hype from reality in Facebook stats” and points out that people have used the Internet to create relationships long before Facebook was around. Carl Bialik also wrote in the Journal that the now taken-for-granted statistic that that one in five divorces is linked to Facebook, is actually a mistake. Bialik says the statistic was mistakenly attributed to the AAML at first, but actually came from an independent divorce website whose director later acknowledged may not be representative of all divorces. “May not be representative” might sound more like “we made it up” to some, but the errant statistic managed to continue to evolve in the press and a CNN article attributed it to a survey of some 5,000 attorneys, conducted by what appeared to be a spam web site. After CNN became aware of the issues they said, “We’re updating our story to reflect the clarifications.”
However you look at it, sociologists and divorce researchers have proven it’s difficult to separate out the true causes of divorce. When researchers ask divorcees why they got divorced, they often see completely different results from men and women. There are even disputes as to the methods used to collect divorce data and whether or not they are valid ways of collecting the information. Some experts have said that while there are definite social, cultural, and behavioral predictors of divorce, the true deciding factor is the will of the individual to stay faithful in a marriage.