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The impact of Social Media on Romantic Relations

1939 words (8 pages) Essay in Psychology

21/07/17 Psychology Reference this

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For all of the positive facets of the increased social connection that Facebook enables, including the help it may provide at the academic level, maintenance of relationships, there may also be some costs for those individuals who are in romantic relationships. My data show a significant association between romantic jealousy and jealousy-related feelings experienced on Facebook. Long time back, flirty gestures of interest remained entirely within an individual’s own control, and partners involved in romantic relationships were most often not opened to the daily scrutiny of their exchanges with members of their social circle. With the development of social network sites like Facebook, a fundamental shift has been created in this practice because Facebook has made the lives of people open for all to see.

My first hypothesis is that jealousy is differentially experienced by gender. The results I obtained from my study supported this hypothesis. Most of the girls who participated in the study scored higher on both Multidimensional Jealousy Scale and Facebook Jealousy Scale than male participants. Since the Multidimensional Jealousy Scale assessed the participants on three levels of jealousy namely cognitive, emotional and behavioral, I have also analyzed their scores separately on these three levels. Only when these three levels of jealousy is analyzed separately that we can see the difference on how boys and girls experience jealousy. When romantic jealousy was globally analyzed, I found that out of 69 girls, 55 reported that they experience a high level of jealousy, the result of the remaining 14 girls showed that they have a normal level of romantic jealousy whereas for the male participants, out of 50 boys only 13 boys reported that they experience a high level of romantic jealousy.

I then divided the romantic jealousy into its three respective components. What I found was that only 5 out of 50 boys scored more than 3 on the cognitive level of romantic jealousy whereas 23 out of 69 girls scored higher than 3 on this level. A score greater than 3 on the Multidimensional jealousy scale means that the participant experiences a high level of jealousy. Someone who experience cognitive jealousy has repeated thoughts of anxiousness, doubts and suspicions about his or her partner’s potential infidelity and external relationships. It involves someone who is obsessed by mistaken beliefs, worries and suspicions about rivals to a valued romantic relationship. Cognitive jealousy implies the construction of elaborate cognitive scenarios that result in biases toward perceiving relational threats and misunderstanding of the partner’s behavior. My results suggest that women tend to feel cognitive jealousy more than men do. From my point of view, this may be explained using the evolutionary theory of jealousy, which is further detailed by modern sociobiologists. The theorists explained that woman is more jealous of man developing another committed relationship because she is afraid that he will spend his time, energy, protection, and resources in that person, and she will be left with less resources and safety if she has to share the male’s resources with another woman and her children. That is why she always has repeated thoughts of anxiousness doubts and suspicions, because she is afraid of losing the person who is providing for her and who protects her.

However, both girls and boys scored high on emotional jealousy. Approximately 45 out of 50 boys scored greater than 3 on the Multidimensional Jealousy Scale and as per the scoring rule if participants scored higher than 3 means that they experience somewhat a problematic level of emotional jealousy. Similarly, the majority of the girls who participated in my study scored very high on emotional jealousy. This can be explained through the attachment style that romantic partners display. Levy, a psychologist at Penn State, studied attachment in relationships and spoke of two types of attachment in relationships namely dismissive and secure. A person with dismissive attachment does not see the value in relationships and Levy described them as hyper-independent. In other words, most of us value our independence, but we also value our relationships. However, those who display dismissive type of attachments value only their independence, to the exclusion of relationships. On the other side, Levy said that those with secure attachments see the value in relationships and are comfortable with the interdependency that comes with them. He added that those with a secure attachment style might be more likely to be bothered by emotional infidelity, while those with dismissive styles would see sexual infidelity as more of problem (Kenneth N. Levy and Kristen M. Kelly, 2010). Based on this attachment theory I would argue that most of my participants, be it boys or girls, displayed a secure attachment style with their respective partners, and they scored high on emotional jealousy because they valued their relationships and they are highly committed to each other.

As for the behavioral component of jealousy, girls tend to experience it more than boys do. The goal of someone who expresses behavioral jealousy is to ensure that intimacy does not take place between one’s partner and a third party. Examples of behavioral jealousy include being inquisitive, checking up on one’s partner, searching his or her belongings, mobile phones, making uncomplimentary statements about the rival, or trying to come in between the partner and rival when they are engaged in conversation. According to me, those who are in a committed relationship would display behavioral jealousy than those who are in an open relationship. The reason behind why they engaged in such behaviors may be explained again through the evolutionary theory of jealousy. The feeling of insecurity that women have makes them act in these way that is being always inquisitive, checking up on their partner and searching their belongings. They want to make sure that their partners are not being involved with a third party, which would eventually represent a threat to their relationships and their security.

Consistent with hypothesis, those who experience romantic jealousy effectively experience Facebook jealousy. The data suggest that both male and female that participated in my study scored high on the Facebook Jealousy Scale. Not only they scored high but also the number of boys that reported to feel romantic jealousy increased when they were assessed on the Facebook level of jealousy. Approximately 32 out of 50 boys said that they experience Facebook related jealousy and about 62 out of 69 girls reported to have undergone that feeling (The increase in jealousy feeling is shown when Figure 4 and Figure 8 is compared). Here, it can be said that Facebook reinforced the level of jealousy in both male and female. There was a fairly strong significant association between romantic jealousy and Facebook jealousy ( r = 0.727, p < 0.01). Moreover when I performed a correlation test for boys and girls separately between romantic jealousy and Facebook jealousy, what I found was that the correlation for girls ( r = 0.678, p < 0.01) were higher than that for boys ( r = 0.654, p < 0.01). The reason behind this increase in the level of jealousy may be explained because of the open nature of Facebook. The latter gives people information about their partner that would not otherwise be accessible. Ambiguous scenes concerning a partner and contact with past romantic and sexual partners are among the common triggers of jealousy in romantic relationships (Sheets VL et al. 1997) and these ambiguous scenes are a usual occurrence on Facebook. Real or imagined negative situations arouse feelings of jealousy, and participants felt the Facebook environment created these feelings and increased concerns about the quality of their relationship.

My results suggest that Facebook may expose a person to potentially jealousy-provoking information about his or her partner, which creates a feedback loop whereby heightened jealousy leads to increased surveillance of a partner’s Facebook page. Persistent surveillance results in further exposure to jealousy-provoking information. The correlation between Facebook jealousy and if participants monitor their partner’s activities on Facebook is very high (r = 0.805, p < 0.01). According to me, this occurs because of the nature of Facebook again. Through that social network sites, it becomes very easy to reconnect with Ex's and it over-informs. More it informs, more people tend to monitor their partners activities without being detected.

Finally, I did a regression analysis to obtain the percentages of how much Facebook jealousy is predicted by romantic jealousy. The result I obtained are as follows, 42.8% Facebook jealousy is predicted by romantic jealousy for male and 46% Facebook jealousy is predicted for female by romantic jealousy. Since romantic jealousy is divided into three components, I also performed regressions for the three levels to know which components of romantic jealousy predict more Facebook jealousy. 18.6% Facebook jealousy is caused by cognitive level of jealousy in male, which is not very high, and 32.4% is caused for female by the same variable. 22.7% emotional jealousy predicts Facebook jealousy for male and 35.8% emotional jealousy causes the feeling of jealousy on Facebook in female. As for the behavioral component of romantic jealousy, 33.2% is accounted for Facebook jealousy in boys and only 16.9% is explained for Facebook jealousy in girls. In all, it is suggested that the behavioral component in romantic jealousy is a better predictor of Facebook jealousy for boys and emotional component is a better predictor of Facebook related jealousy for female.

This finding shows that when it comes to jealousy men and women are not always on the same page. Many studies in the past have shown that men are more likely to see red over a partner’s sexual infidelity (for example study done by Donald Symons in 1979), while women are more upset by emotional cheating. Evolutionary psychologists theorize that the difference is rooted in the sexes’ historical roles. Men want to guarantee that their partners are carrying their children, while women need to feel secure that they and their children would be cared for by a committed partner. Emotional jealousy refers to how someone feels when his or her partner is flirting with someone else, kissing or hugging someone of the opposite sex or how that person feels when he or she learns that somebody else is dating his or her partner. That is why women usually feel anxious and insecure because if their partner becomes interested in someone else, they will have to share their partner’s resources with that other person.

Limitations

However, future research must directly examine the effects of various triggers on the experience of jealousy for example genetics. In addition, it would be interesting to learn whether these same relationships hold true in samples of adults since my sample age range is between 18 to 26 years only. Unlike most young individuals’ relationships, adult relationships are more likely to have developed before Facebook became popular, and one could argue that partners in that age group may be less well equipped to deal with the challenges that Facebook poses to relationships. In addition, my sample size is n= 119, which is very small to be able to generalize my findings in the Mauritian context.

Conclusion

This study provides evidence of a relationship between Facebook use and the experience of jealousy in that context, more precisely it looked at the association between romantic jealousy experienced by individuals who are in a romantic relationship and Facebook related jealousy based on gender and if Facebook use reinforce level of jealousy. A review of the literature reveals that the social network site, Facebook, is a direct cause of jealousy and negatively impacts romantic relationships (Muise et al 2009). It is responsible in stirring suspicion between romantic partners. However, there is a need for more research which control for other correlates and determinants of jealousy to be done in the future.

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