Are online behaviors damaging our in-person connections? Passive versus active social media use on romantic relationships

Abstract

Social media has been extensively researched, and its impact on well-being is becoming more clear. What is less clear, however, is the role of social media on romantic relationships, with the few existing studies finding mixed results. In an attempt to reconcile these discrepancies, the current study explored types of social media use (i.e., active use and passive use) as moderators between frequency of social media use and relationship health (i.e., relationship satisfaction and commitment). Participants were 432 adults in a romantic relationship for at least three months. Results showed that women who passively use social media at moderate to high levels exhibited negative associations between hours per day of social media use and relationship satisfaction, and hours per day of social media use and commitment. On the other hand, active use may ameliorate the negative association between hours per day of social media use and relationship health for both women and men. Specifically, men and women reporting low levels of active use exhibited a stronger negative association between hours per day of social media use and relationship health than those who reported moderate levels of active use. Additionally, there was no association between hours per day of social media use and relationship health for men and women reporting high levels of active use. Implications of these findings are discussed, as well as future directions based on these findings.

Bibliographic citation

Quiroz, S. I., & Mickelson, K. D. (2021). Are online behaviors damaging our in-person connections? Passive versus active social media use on romantic relationships. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 15(1), Article 1. doi:https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2021-1-1

Keywords

Romantic relationships; social media use; passive use; active use; gender differences; relationship satisfaction; commitment

Full Text:

HTML

References

Show references Hide references

Abbasi, I. S. (2019). Social media addiction in romantic relationships: Does user's age influence vulnerability to social media infidelity? Personality and Individual Differences, 139, 277–280. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2018.10.038

Arad, A., Barzilay, O., & Perchick, M. (2017). The impact of Facebook on social comparison and happiness: Evidence from a natural experiment. SSSR Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2916158

Beach, S. R. H., & O'Leary, K. D. (1993). Marital discord and dysphoria: For whom does the marital relationship predict depressive symptomatology? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 10(3), 405–420. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407593103007

Billedo, C. J., Kerkhof, P., & Finkenauer, C. (2015). The use of social networking sites for relationship maintenance in long-distance and geographically close romantic relationships. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 18(3), 152–157. http://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2014.0469

Brown, W. (1910). Some experimental results in the correlation of mental abilities. British Journal of Psychology, 3, 296–322. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1910.tb00207.x

Burke, M., Kraut, R., & Marlow, C. (2011). Social capital on Facebook: Differentiating uses and users. In G. Fitzpatrick & C. Gutwin, (Eds.), Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 571–580). ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/1978942.1979023

Chen, A., Lu, Y., Chau, P. Y. K., & Gupta, S. (2014). Classifying, measuring, and predicting users’ overall active behavior on social networking sites. Journal of Management Information Systems, 31(3), 213–253. https://doi.org/10.1080/07421222.2014.995557

Chen, W., Fan, C.-Y., Liu, Q.-X., Zhou, Z.-K., & Xie, X.-C. (2016). Passive social network site use and subjective well-being: A moderated mediation model. Computers in Human Behavior, 64, 507–514. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.04.038

Clark, J. L., Algoe, S. B., & Green, M. C. (2018). Social network sites and well-being: The role of social connection. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(1), 32–37. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721417730833

Clement, J. (2019, May 14). Daily time spent on social networking by internet users worldwide from 2012 to 2019 (in minutes). Statista – The Statistics Portal. https://www.statista.com/statistics/433871/daily-social-media-usage-worldwide/

de Reuver, M., & Bouwman, H. (2015). Dealing with self-report bias in mobile Internet acceptance and usage studies. Information & Management, 52(3), 287–294. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.im.2014.12.002

Emery, L. F., Muise, A., Dix, E. L., & Le, B. (2014). Can you tell that I’m in a relationship? Attachment and relationship visibility on Facebook. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(11), 1466–1479. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167214549944

Escobar-Viera, C. G., Shensa, A., Bowman, N. D., Sidani, J. E., Knight, J., James, A. E., & Primack, B. A. (2018). Passive and active social media use and depressive symptoms among United States adults. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 21(7), 437–443. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2017.0668

Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 117–140. https://doi.org/10.1177/001872675400700202

Fox, J., & Warber, K. M. (2014). Social networking sites in romantic relationships: Attachment, uncertainty, and partner surveillance on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 17(1), 3–7. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2012.0667

Frison, E., & Eggermont, S. (2016). Exploring the relationships between different types of Facebook use, perceived online social support, and adolescents’ depressed mood. Social Science Computer Review, 34(2), 153–171. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439314567449

Gerson, J., Plagnol, A. C., & Corr, P. J. (2017). Passive and Active Facebook Use Measure (PAUM): Validation and relationship to the reinforcement sensitivity theory. Personality and Individual Differences, 117, 81–90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.05.034

Gibbons, F. X., & Buunk, B. P. (1999). Individual differences in social comparison: Development of a scale of social comparison orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(1), 129–142. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.76.1.129

Hand, M. M., Thomas, D., Buboltz, W. C., Deemer, E. D., & Buyanjargal, M. (2013). Facebook and romantic relationships: Intimacy and couple satisfaction associated with online social network use. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16, 8–13. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2012.0038

Hayes, A. F. (2012). PROCESS: A versatile computational tool for observed variable mediation, moderation, and conditional process modeling [White paper]. http://www.afhayes.com/public/process2012.pdf

Hayes, A. F., & Preacher, K. J. (2014). Statistical mediation analysis with a multicategorical independent variable. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 67(3), 451-470. https://doi.org/10.1111/bmsp.12028

Hendrick, S. S., Dicke, A., & Hendrick, C. (1998). The Relationship Assessment Scale. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15(1), 137–142. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407598151009

Lenhart, A. & Duggan, M. (2014). Couples, the internet, and social media: How American couples use digital technology to manage life, logistics, and emotional intimacy within their relationships. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/11/couples-the-internet-and-social-media/

Levinger, G. (1979). Marital cohesiveness at the brink: The fate of applications for divorce. In G. Levinger & O. C. Moles (Eds.), Divorce and separation: Context, causes and consequences (pp. 136–150). Basic Books.

Li, T., & Chan, D. K. S. (2012). How anxious and avoidant attachment affect romantic relationship quality differently: A meta‐analytic review. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42(4), 406-419. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.1842

Lin, L. Y., Sidani, J. E., Shensa, A., Radovic, A., Miller, E., Colditz, J. B., Hoffman, B. L., Giles, L. M., & Primack, B. A. (2016). Association between social media use and depression among US young adults. Depression and Anxiety, 33(4), 323–331. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22466

Liu, Q., Niu, G., Fan, C., & Zhou, Z. (2017). Passive use of social network site and its relationships with self-esteem and self-concept clarity: A moderated mediation analysis. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 49(1), 60–71. https://doi.org/10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.00060

Lup, K., Trub, L., & Rosenthal, L. (2015). Instagram #instasad?: exploring associations among Instagram use, depressive symptoms, negative social comparison, and strangers followed. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(5), 247–252. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2014.0560

Macklin, E. D. (1978). Review of research on nonmarital cohabitation in the United States. In B. I. Murstein (Ed.), Exploring intimate lifestyles. Springer.

Nabi, R. L., Prestin, A., & So, J. (2013). Facebook friends with (health) benefits? Exploring social network site use and perceptions of social support, stress, and well-being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(10), 721–727. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2012.0521

Pagani, M., Hofacker, C. F., & Goldsmith, R. E. (2011). The influence of personality on active and passive use of social networking sites. Psychology & Marketing, 28(5), 441–456. https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.20395

Papp, L. M., Danielewicz, J., & Cayemberg, C. (2012). “Are we Facebook official?” Implication of dating partners’ Facebook use and profiles for intimate relationship satisfaction. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(2), 85–90. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2011.0291

Pew Research Center. (2017, January 11). Social media use by gender. www.pewinternet.org/chart/social-media-use-by-gender/

Ram, N., Yang, X., Cho, M.-J., Brinberg, M., Muirhead, F., Reeves, B., & Robinson, T. N. (2020). Screenomics: A new approach for observing and studying individuals’ digital lives. Journal of Adolescent Research, 35(1), 16–50. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558419883362

Repišti, S. & Kerla, M. (2016). Social Self-Esteem Scale. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/294870440_Social_Self-Esteem_Scale_SSES

Rubin, Z., Peplau, L. A., & Hill, C. T. (1981). Loving and leaving: Sex differences in romantic attachments. Sex Roles, 7(8), 821–835. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287767

Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The Investment Model Scale: Measuring commitment level, satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size. Personal Relationships, 5(4), 357–387. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6811.1998.tb00177.x

Saslow, L. R., Muise, A., Impett, E. A., & Dubin, M. (2013). Can you see how happy we are? Facebook images and relationship satisfaction. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(4), 411–418. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550612460059

Seidman, G., Langlais, M., & Havens, A. (2019). Romantic relationship-oriented Facebook activities and the satisfaction of belonging needs. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 8(1), 52–62. https://doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000165

Shaw, A. M., Timpano, K. R., Tran, T. B., & Joormann, J. (2015). Correlates of Facebook usage patterns: The relationship between passive Facebook use, social anxiety symptoms, and brooding. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 575–580. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.02.003

Smith, A. & Anderson, M. (2018). Social media use in 2018. Pew Research Center. http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2018/03/01105133/PI_2018.03.01_Social-Media_FINAL.pdf

Spearman, C. (1910). Correlation calculated with faulty data. British Journal of Psychology, 3, 271–295. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1910.tb00206.x

Tankovska, H. (2021, January 28). Percentage of U.S. population who currently use any social media from 2008 to 2019. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/273476/percentage-of-us-population-with-a-social-network-profile/#:~:text=In%20the%20United%20States%2C%20an,exceed%20257%20million%20by%202023.

Tokunaga, R. S. (2011). Social networking site or surveillance site? Understanding the use of interpersonal electronic surveillance in romantic relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(2), 705–713. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2010.08.014

Toma, C. L., & Choi, M. (2015). The couple who Facebooks together, stays together: Facebook self-presentation and relationship longevity among college-aged dating couples. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(7), 367–372. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2015.0060

Trifiro, B. M., & Gerson, J. (2019). Social media usage patterns: Research note regarding the lack of universal validated measures for active and passive use. Social Media + Society, 5(2), 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305119848743

Utz, S. & Beukeboom, C. J. (2011). The role of social network sites in romantic relationships: Effects on jealousy and relationship happiness. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 16(4), 511–527. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01552.x

Valenzuela, S., Halpern, D., & Katz, J. E. (2014). Social network sites, marriage well-being and divorce: Survey and state-level evidence from the United States. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 94–101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.03.034

Vangelisti, A. L., & Daly, J. A. (1997). Gender differences in standards for romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 4(3), 203–219. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6811.1997.tb00140.x

Vaughn, M. J., & Matyastik Baier, M. E. (1999). Reliability and validity of the Relationship Assessment Scale. American Journal of Family Therapy, 27(2), 137–147. https://doi.org/10.1080/019261899262023

Verduyn, P., Lee, D. S., Park, J., Shablack, H., Orvell, A., Bayer, J., Ybarra, O., Jonides, J., & Kross, E. (2015). Passive Facebook usage undermines affective well-being: Experimental and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(2), 480–488. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000057

Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Okdie, B. M., Eckles, K., & Franz, B. (2015). Who compares and despairs? The effect of social comparison orientation on social media use and its outcomes. Personality and Individual Differences, 86, 249–256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.06.026

Wang, J.-L., Gaskin, J., Rost, D. H., & Gentile, D. A. (2018). The reciprocal relationship between passive social networking site (SNS) usage and users’ subjective well-being. Social Science Computer Review, 36(5), 511–522. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439317721981

Wang, J.-L., Wang, H.-Z., Gaskin, J., & Hawk, S. (2017). The mediating roles of upward social comparison and self-esteem and the moderating role of social comparison orientation in the association between social networking site usage and subjective well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, Article 711. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00771

Whisman, M. A., & Uebelacker, L. A. (2009). Prospective associations between marital discord and depressive symptoms in middle-aged and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 24(1), 184–189. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0014759

Whitton, S. W., & Whisman, M. A. (2010). Relationship satisfaction instability and depression. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(6), 791–794. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021734

https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2021-1-1