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04 October 2012
Facebook shares may not be doing so well but the social media website continues to flourish. With approaching one billion users Facebook is an immensely popular tool and with that popularity comes examination. Researchers around the world are feverishly conducting trials to see what effects the use of Facebook has on its fans. One of the most of these has found that if you are going through a relationship break-up then Facebook may make things a little tougher.
The researchers wanted to examine the emotional effect when a couple had broken up and did not maintain online contact but where one of the ex-partners monitors the Facebook page and postings of the other (an activity dubbed “surveillance”).
To study this the researchers gathered data from hundreds of Facebook users who had gone through a break-up and evaluated their emotional recovery and personal adjustment as they did.
They found that as many as 33 per cent of people continue to follow the activities of an ex-partner online. Participants who remained Facebook friends with the ex-partner, relative to those who did not remain Facebook friends, reported less negative feelings, sexual desire, and longing for the former partner. However, they also showed lower personal growth. All of these results emerged after controlling for offline contact, personality traits, and characteristics of the former relationship and breakup that tend to predict postbreakup adjustment. Overall, these findings suggest that exposure to an ex-partner through Facebook may obstruct the process of healing and moving on from a past relationship.
None of this is to demonise Facebook neither is it to eulogise it: we came neither to bury Facebook nor to praise it. What it does show though is that cyber-contact has real and measurable effects. You may be dislocated from the object of your communication and so you may feel as though your interaction with someone over the internet is not as potent as when it is face to face. However, connection is connection, even when it is cyber-connection, and to underestimate the psychological impact of what you say and do in the online space is to play with psychological fire.