If you or your spouse spend a lot of time on Facebook
, it can be pretty scary to see a study
suggest there's a correlation between heavy Facebook use and divorce. However, it's important to note the distinction between "correlation" and "causation," which is to say that spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook or any other social network won't necessarily drive your marriage into the dumps.
The study appears in the July 2014 edition of Computers in Human Behavior,
and in it, the researchers looked at the rise of Facebook use and the rate of divorce on a state-by-state basis. What they found was that a 20 percent increase in the number of Facebook users in a given stated is linked to a 4 percent increase in the divorce rate the following year, Time
Going the extra mile, the researchers surveyed individuals all across the country ranging in age from 18 to 39. The survey revealed that people who spent more time on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites were more likely to have an unhappy marriage and were thinking about divorce.
Now, before you hack into your spouse's Facebook account and delete it -- an invasion of privacy that very well could cause a rift in your marriage -- it's important to note that even the researchers are careful not to say that increased Facebook use causes divorce, only that there's a correlation.
"To be clear, both data sets can provide solid evidence of the existence of an association between Facebook use and marriage quality and, in the case of the state-level data, some evidence of the temporal ordering of the variables. However, the study does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship because that would require longitudinal and/or experimental data," the researchers noted.
That said, they also suggest a need for further probing relationships using individual-level data.