Relationship commitment and monitoring alternatives using Facebook in unmarried romantic relationships
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Recent technological innovations affecting romantic relationships include the rise in prominence of social networking sites (SNSs), including Facebook. SNSs have become an increasingly fundamental part of developing and maintaining relationships. A majority of research focuses on the ways in which individuals access SNSs. Less studied is how individuals' use of SNSs affects their romantic relationships. An important aspect of the stability of romantic relationships is the construct of commitment. Relationship commitment is conceptualized as the intent to continue a relationship into the future and is composed of many constructs that can either keep individuals in or pull them away from the relationship. One aspect that may pull individuals away from their relationship is the quality and availability of potential alternatives, or relationship forms other than the current one. There is evidence that using tools like Facebook may prompt individuals to pay attention to alternative relationship options. This study examined how SNSs use may affect current relationships with a sample of 645 unmarried individuals in dating relationships and with current Facebook accounts. All participants completed measures of their Facebook use, relationship commitment, and attention to relationship alternatives. A sub-sample of 432 participants were randomly assigned to one of two study conditions. One condition prompted participants to view the Facebook profiles of friends that they might consider as possible relationship partners and the other condition prompted participants to view organizations they follow on Facebook. Analyses indicated that Facebook monitoring condition did not predict differences in individuals' reported commitment. However, hierarchical regression analyses using the full sample revealed that high levels of online monitoring of alternatives were associated with low levels of commitment for both males and females, but more so for males. Analyses also revealed that low levels of satisfaction predicted high levels of monitoring of alternatives and high levels of Facebook use predicted high levels of online monitoring of alternatives. These results suggest that tools such as Facebook can be used to monitor alternatives, yet doing so may negatively affect current romantic relationships. Future studies should explore these relationships by using a repeated measures design to assess change over time.
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