In response to seeing a friend’s Facebook relationship status go from “in a relationship” to “single” last night, I found myself curious. Does Facebook play a role in the destruction of relationships, or is it merely an unwitting accomplice to humanity’s propensity towards using and discarding people?
According to a 2010 survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 4 out of 5 divorce lawyers now report that they are seeing an increased number of cases in which evidence of infidelity has been derived from social networking sites. Likewise, the British website divorceonline.com reported that more than one-third of all divorce petitions in the United Kingdom cited Facebook in their divorce filings. This is markedly up from the 1 in 5 petitions that listed Facebook only two years earlier.
While this would seem to suggest a positive correlation between the use of Facebook and divorce, we should be hesitant against drawing too firm a conclusion. According to the Center for Disease Control, the overall rate of divorce in the United States appears to be relatively unaffected by the emergence of social networking. In fact, the rate of divorce in the U.S. appears to actually be on the decline.
In a statement issued to the Guardian, a representative for Facebook had this to say:
“It’s ridiculous to suggest that Facebook leads to divorce. Whether you’re breaking up or just getting together, Facebook is just a way to communicate, like letters, phone calls and emails. Facebook doesn’t cause divorces, people do.”
Of course, this sounds an awful lot like: “Guns don’t kill, people do.” And I’m not sure that a flippant dismissal by a company that has a vested interest in the public perception of its product is the most reliable source of information on the subject.
So the question I pose for you today is this: In the absence of a definitive correlation between Facebook use and divorce, what, if any, Facebook boundaries would you be in favor of establishing as a married couple? What about boundaries for your children? Are their current Facebook habits training them in accordance with the boundaries you believe to be appropriate for married partners? If not, what about their “single” status makes you believe that their boundaries should be different than those of a married couple?
 Sixty-six percent (66%) of the lawyers responding to the survey cited Facebook as the “primary source” of evidence in the divorce proceedings. An additional 15% cited MySpace, while only 5% cited Twitter.