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Can Facebook harm your 'relationship status'?

March 7, 2011
It was unfathomable that one idea could change how the world interacts. And then you signed up for Facebook. While watching the three-time Oscar winner The Social Network, I was struck by how this invention -- motivated, if the film is to believed, by the insecurities of its co-founder -- has impacted the lives of 600 million users.
As articulated in the Pope's recent message for the 45th World Day of Social Communications, online social networking has introduced a whole host of challenges and opportunities. But, given the relative novelty of Facebook, we're only beginning to see studies that corroborate whether our fear or enthusiasm has been justified.
Arguably the most alarming study was released one week ago. A press release by Loyola University warns, "Don't let your marriage be among the 1 in 5 destroyed by Facebook." Read the findings below.
MAYWOOD, Ill. – If you’re single, Facebook and other social networking sites can help you meet that special someone. However, for those in even the healthiest of marriages, improper use can quickly devolve into a marital disaster.
A recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that Facebook is cited in 1 in 5 divorces in the United States. Also, more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers reported a rising number of people are using social media to engage in extramarital affairs.
“We’re coming across it more and more,” said licensed clinical psychologist Steven Kimmons, PhD, of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. “One spouse connects online with someone they knew from high school. The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook. Within a short amount of time, the sharing of personal stories can lead to a deepened sense of intimacy, which in turn can point the couple in the direction of physical contact.”
Though already-strained marriages are most vulnerable, a couple doesn’t have to be experiencing marital difficulties for an online relationship to blossom from mere talk into a full-fledged affair, Kimmons said. In most instances, people enter into online relationships with the most innocent of intentions.
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Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring
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