Couples that broadcast their love on Facebook may be annoying, but they seem to have their relationships figured out. According to a study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, people who are loud and proud about their significant others on Facebook are more likely to stay with their partners.
The research, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, And Social Networking, and released online last week, looked at how 180 undergraduates reflected their relationships online, as well as how long they stayed smitten. The students in the study, who were all in couples, first answered questions about their age, sex, length of relationship, and level of commitment. Then they logged into their Facebook profiles and allowed researchers to record the number of photos they had posted with their partners, whether they had indicated that they were "in a relationship," how many times each person in the couple wrote on the other’s wall in the last month, and the number of mutual friends they shared. Six months later, researchers asked the students by e-mail whether they were still in that relationship.
After controlling for age, sex, and relationship length, the study found that people who said they were “in a relationship” and posted a lot of photos with their partners were more likely to be deeply committed and still together.
“These publicly posted cues likely induced participants to perceive themselves as part of a romantic unit, thus cementing the relationship,” wrote Catalina Toma and Mina Choi, the co-authors of the study. Their theory is that publicly confirming romance in and of itself deepens that romance, partly because people want to live in a way that's consistent with how they represent themselves to the outside world. Having a lot of mutual friends was not associated with staying in a couple past six months, nor was how often a person's partner posted on their wall.
Toma and Choi considered the competing idea that the Facebook activity merely reflected couples' deep commitment to each other, rather than helping deepen that commitment. They tested that hypothesis statistically and found more evidence that Facebook affects relationship commitment than vice-versa.
As the saying goes: first comes Facebook, then comes deep, long-lasting romance.