In a study of 308 Facebook users, researchers discovered that people who are more prone to jealousy will find Facebook just reinforces that jealousy.
The researchers created their own specialized quiz for the study, called the Facebook Jealousy scale. The scale is composed of 27 items that are measured on a 7-point scale from “very likely” to “very unlikely” that assess Facebook-related jealousy. According to the study, sample items include “How likely are you to become jealous after your partner has added an unknown member of the opposite sex?” and “How likely are you to monitor your partner’s activities on Facebook?”
The researchers (Muise et al., 2009) collected the data for this study as a part of a larger study being conducted on Facebook. Most participants were in a seriously committed relationship:
At the time of the survey, the majority of the participants were in a relationship in which they were seriously dating one person (50.5%); other participants were casually dating one or more partners (8.3%), in an open relationship (3.7%), living with a partner but not married (3.0%), married (0.7%), or divorced/separated (0.3%). The remaining 33.6 percent of participants were not currently dating anyone.
In their study sample, the researchers found that most of the people surveyed spent about 40 minutes/day on Facebook and had somewhere between 25 and 1,000 “friends” on Facebook, with the mean being about 300.
Did you know most of us add previous boyfriends or girlfriends to our Facebook friends?
The majority of participants (74.6%) were at least somewhat likely to add previous romantic or sexual partners as friends on Facebook, and 78.9% reported that their partner has added previous romantic or sexual partners as friends.
And of course, most people reported that there were some friends on their Facebook page that their partner did not know.
Not surprisingly, the researchers found that if you’re more likely to be a jealous person (what psychologists call “trait jealousy”), you’re more likely to have “Facebook jealousy” too. Women were more likely to be jealous than men. And here’s the kicker — time spent on Facebook contributed a tiny part to Facebook jealousy. (Women spend more time on Facebook than men.)
The researchers say, “Our data showed a significant association between time spent on Facebook and jealousy-related feelings and behaviors experienced on Facebook.”
They then ask the important chicken-or-the-egg question, “Is time spent on Facebook increasing jealousy, or is the heightened level of jealousy that may emerge as a result of the information found on partners’ Facebook postings resulting in increased time on Facebook? We argue that both options are inevitably intertwined.”
The researchers furthermore this can set up an unintentional self-reinforcing feedback loop:
Our results suggest that Facebook may expose an individual to potentially jealousy-provoking information about their partner, which creates a feedback loop whereby heightened jealousy leads to increased surveillance of a partner’s Facebook page. Persistent surveillance results in further exposure to jealousy-provoking information.
The key thing to keep in mind though is that Facebook isn’t going to cause someone who wasn’t jealous in the first place to become jealous. The researchers’ findings only show that if you’re a pretty jealous person to begin with, the more time you spend on Facebook, the more jealous you’re likely to become.
Muise, A., Christofides, E. & Desmarais, S. (2009). More Information than You Ever Wanted: Does Facebook Bring Out the Green-Eyed Monster of Jealousy? CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(4), 441-444.