New research has found that of the estimated 900 million users worldwide of the social networking site Facebook, a large number are risking psychological damage by using the site to spy on ex lovers.
The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, states that the effects of remaining Facebook friends with an ex-lover or even just following his or her activities online can disrupt a person’s ability to heal emotionally and move on with his or her life.
Psychologist Tara Marshall, author of the study, writes in the journal, ‘Previous research has found that continuing offline contact with an ex-romantic partner following a breakup may disrupt emotional recovery. The present study examined whether continuing online contact with an ex-partner through remaining Facebook friends and/or engaging in surveillance of the ex-partner’s Facebook page inhibited post-breakup adjustment and growth above and beyond offline contact.’
Unlike before, where one could try and pry information about one’s ex through friends, Facebook is another matter altogether. Marshall argues that remaining ‘friends’ with your ex on Facebook enables you to keep up with everything your former partner is doing, thus not allowing you to distance yourself from the relationship and move on.
The conclusions were drawn from a survey of 464 participants, most of whom were undergraduate students. Questions about self-esteem, relationship quality, characteristics of their former relationship and breakup, and the amount and type of contact they’ve had with their ex-partner were included in the survey. Questions about how much distress participants experienced over their breakup, as well as personal growth, were also asked.
It was found that people who remain Facebook friends with an ex-partner tend to experience poorer breakup adjustment and personal growth relative to those who do not. Notably, frequent monitoring of an ex-partner’s Facebook page and list of friends was found to be associated with greater distress.