Romantic Jealousy on Facebook: Causes and Outcomes

Romantic Jealousy on Facebook: Causes and Outcomes

Christopher J. Carpenter (Communication Department, Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICST.2016010101
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This article uses White and Mullen's jealousy model as a basis to derive hypotheses about the causes and effects of Facebook-related romantic jealousy. A cross-sectional survey was conducted to test these hypotheses (N = 196). General Facebook use by the user or the romantic partner were not substantially related to user jealousy. Reports of a variety of interactions between partners and potential rivals were positively related to jealousy, including the partner posting on others' walls and acquiring new Facebook friends which are unknown to the user. Additionally, those interaction were also associated with attempts to improve the relationship using Facebook relational maintenance behaviors as well as intentions to end it or have casual extra-dyadic sex (infidelity).
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In 2009, Muise, Christofides, and Desmarais published the first article linking regular Facebook use to romantic jealousy of one’s romantic partner. This finding was replicated in several additional studies (Elphinston and Noller, 2011; Hoffman and DeGroot, 2015; Hudson, Nicolas, Howser, Lipsett, Robinson, Pope, Hobby, and Friedman, 2009; Orosz, Szekeres, Kiss, Farkas, and Roland-Lévy, 2015), though the effects are usually small and several studies did not find evidence of that relationship (Dainton and Berksoski, 2013; Marshall, Bejanyan, Castro, and Lee, 2012). Additional studies have exposed participants to hypothetical scenarios that experimentally varied various aspects of the romantic partner’s Facebook behavior as well as those of potential rivals to assess how these variations might affect the participants’ jealousy (Fleuriet, Cole, and Guerrero, 2014; Hudson et al., 2015; Muise, Christofides, and Desmarais, 2013; Muscanell, Guadagno, Rice, and Murphy, 2013).

This study attempted to bridge these two approaches by examining what specific kinds of perceived communication by partners and perceived rivals are most associated with romantic jealousy among a sample of Facebook users. Rather than experimentally varying one behavior at a time, this study measured the extent to which Facebook users encountered several of those behaviors and attempted to assess those behaviors’ associations with jealousy. Additionally, this study applied the appraisal based model of jealousy by White and Mullen (1989) to predict which kinds of Facebook communication will produce jealousy as well as explore additional outcomes as coping mechanisms.

This study makes several important contributions to computer-mediated communication and jealousy research. First, on a practical level, romantic jealousy has been linked to a variety of negative emotional and violent outcomes (Guerrero and Anderson, 1997). Facebook related jealousy has been specifically related to physical aggression (Brem, Spiller, and Vandehey, 2015). If Facebook use is contributing to this negative emotion, it is important to explore exactly what kinds of Facebook communication contributes to it. Just as media researchers do not find all television viewing causes the same effects, it is also unlikely that all different kinds of Facebook use cause romantic jealousy. If the specifics of this problem can be identified, then interventions to reduce such problems can be developed both at the level of social networking sites (SNSs) and for individual clinical interventions.

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