Facebook reports it has more than 800 million active users of its social networking site. Fifty percent of those active users log on in any given day to make friends, catch up with old friends, play games and post pictures.
Unfortunately, it's not all fun and games. Facebook and other social media sites may also be destroying marriages and families around the globe.
More Divorce Statistics
Facebook's owners and investors are undoubtedly happy with the amount of traffic on the web site. But not all of the statistics concerning Facebook are worth celebrating.
According to Divorce-online.co.uk, a web site based in Great Britain that provides help and resources for people thinking about divorce:
- Of 5,000 divorce cases recently filed in the US, close to 1,000 of them (about 20%) mentioned Facebook as one of the reasons for the divorce
- Facebook is mentioned in 1 of every 5 divorces filed through the web site
And there are numerous stories and anecdotes to back-up the statistics. For example, early in 2009 in Great Britain, Georgina Hobbs-Meyer caught her husband of six months having "cyber sex" with a younger woman on Facebook. The virtual affair led to the parties' divorce.
In one well-publicized case, dubbed the "world's first divorce by Facebook," Emma Brady found out for the first time that her husband wanted a divorce after a friend read a post by Emma's husband on his Facebook page.
While many of the recent stories involve Facebook, you can be sure that other social networking web sites are being used in similar ways. For instance, Lisa Best caught her husband having a virtual affair with another man on the social web site Second Life. And finding pictures of a cheating spouse on MySpace or a "tweet" about an affair on Twitter aren't far-fetched possibilities.
In Travis County, TX, the divorce rate has increased over the past few years, possibly due to social media sites.
Looking for Old and New Friends
There's no single reason for the phenomena. Rather, it's probably a combination of all things that make the internet - and particularly social networks - such a wonderful "place" to be. Email's great for communicating with people you know. Web sites like Facebook and MySpace let people meet and keep in contact with hundreds of new people. They let you post stories and pictures, too.
Perhaps most important, these web sites let people reconnect with old friends, including high school and college sweethearts. Sometimes, curiosity leads to an online investigation: "I wonder what happened to him?" ends at a social network.
If, for whatever reason, a marriage is already in trouble, new or rekindled relationships and "innocent" cyber flirting can lead to devastating results for the marriage and the family.
Check Things Out
No one's trying to shake your faith in your spouse or your marriage. If you have suspicions though, or if you just want to be sure, check your spouse's Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter pages every now and again. You say, "He doesn't go to those sites." Don't be so sure. Ask your spouse or loved one about it, or run a search. You might be surprised.
If you find something unsettling, talk to your spouse about it. When divorce looks it could be the best alternative, try to print out as much information from the site as possible. You may not be able to use it in court for the divorce, but that type of information can be useful when it comes to divorce negotiations.
In the end, keep in mind that while the internet is fun and useful, it can be a dangerous place for your marriage. Don't be afraid to ask questions and poke around if you think something's going wrong in your relationship.
Questions For Your Attorney
- Is a cyber- or virtual affair grounds for divorce, or does there have to be actual, physical contact?
- Someone on Facebook is claiming to be romantically involved with me, and the site even has my picture. I've never met this person, but my spouse doubts me. How can I get the other person to remove my name and picture?
- How damaging is information I post on my Facebook site or Twitter feed to a custody or support award?