We’ve all heard the horror stories. A couple you knew, who seemed perfectly happy and completely in love, suddenly call it quits. The divorce is messy, complicating things for the couple, their friends, and (in some especially sad cases) their kids. The reason? One of them found something on the other’s Facebook page—something that they posted, messaged, or even “liked”—something that severed their matrimonial ties forever.
This phenomenon is not new. A 2015 survey of 2,000 couples in the UK found that 17% of respondents argued every day over social media, and 14% had even considered divorcing over their partner’s online activity. In fact, Facebook was cited in a third of all divorce filings as long ago as 2011, and those numbers have only gone up in the near-decade since!
What is it about social media that makes us want to throw away our futures with the people we love? Here are a few reasons why Facebook, Instagram, and other sites could be damaging your marriage.
1. It Fills Us with FOMO
FOMO, or the “fear of missing out,” is not a uniquely millennial problem. Everyone’s experienced it before: you’re out with friends, having a fine night, when suddenly you’re plagued with worry that somewhere out there, someone else is having even more fun—and you’re missing it.
While this feeling has been studied for decades (the term FOMO was actually coined in the late ’90s), the advent of social media has made it even more prevalent. Now, it’s not enough to vaguely worry about other people’s fun; thanks to our constantly-updating feeds, we can see it happening in real time.
This can be devastating to a marriage because it takes us away from the present moment. You might be on a date with your spouse, having a cozy night in, or even enjoying a weekend getaway, but that incessant, nagging FOMO will urge you to grab your phone and flip through Instagram. This behavior may seem harmless, but it actually sends your partner a harmful message: that what you’re doing—and who you’re with—isn’t enough.
2. It Draws Unnecessary Comparisons
Have you ever seen those couples whose Facebook interactions are just…too cute? They’re constantly uploading #MCM and #WCW posts. They send sweet, loving comments on every single photo. Their selfies are unquestionable #couplegoals.
They make your relationship look crappy by comparison.
Social media is essentially a highlight reel of other people’s lives. Sure, we all understand this rationally, but when we see one #blessed post after another, it’s easy to forget. As a result, we start comparing our own lives (and our own relationships) to the photos we see online—and too often, we are found wanting.
If you allow yourself to compare your marriage to the ones you see on social media, you’re more likely to feel like your marriage is insufficient. This can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, which could ultimately be your downfall.
3. It Makes Infidelity Easier
As I mentioned earlier, over a third of couples cite “Facebook” in their divorce filings. This can mean many things (one partner didn’t like how much the other used the app, one didn’t like the content the other posted, etc.) but in most cases it means that someone was caught flirting—or worse—with another person on the platform.
Social media makes it incredibly easy to track down anyone, from your favorite middle school teacher to that person you were crushing on all through high school. Even worse, the online-only nature of these sites give people a feeling of distance; “There’s nothing wrong with a “hello” message, they think. “It’s not like we’re meeting up in person.”
However, research suggests (and anyone who’s ever used a dating app can confirm) that online messaging can easily lead to strong romantic and even sexual attachments. If you’re chatting with an old flame, a childhood crush, or even a stranger whose pic you liked, you’re inadvertently putting your marriage at risk.
Look, I’m certainly not saying that social media is the only way to be unfaithful—after all, cheaters gonna cheat. But if you or your partner are spending a lot of time on these apps chatting with other people, you’re taking an unnecessary risk that can have real-life consequences.
4. It Allows Outsiders into Your Marriage
Even if your partner never messages a soul, he or she could still allow an outside force to influence your marriage. How? Simply by posting about it! Social media is, by its very nature, a public forum. Anything you post is visible to your friends and followers—and trust me, every last one of them has an opinion they’d love to share.
If you or your partner are sharing intimate details about your relationship online, everyone who views your content will have an opportunity to sound off on it. That means your inside jokes, your arguments, your couple’s Halloween costumes—everything is available for a stranger to pick apart! This can make some people feel incredibly insecure in their relationship, which can lead to real strife and plenty of arguments down the road.
How to Avoid The Social Media Marriage Trap
So far, I’ve sounded pretty gloom-and-doom about social media and its role in the modern millennial marriage. But I promise, there is hope: it’s not hard to protect your relationship from the social media pitfalls!
Firstly, talk with your partner about what is and isn’t appropriate online. This will be different for every couple: some won’t mind a #WCW post once in a while, while others won’t want to post about their relationship at all. If you work together, you’ll be able to find a balance that makes you both happy and comfortable.
Secondly, don’t scroll through Facebook when you’re together! I know the FOMO is real, but seriously try to resist it. If you’re really mindful and in the moment, you won’t care what other people are doing anyway—because you’ll be with the love of your life.