Research Presentation: Meighan Dober

Facebook Publicity: Jealousy leads to Trouble in Paradise

The presence of all these new technologies is changing that way that our world communicates with one another. Facebook is no exception. While Facebook has clearly benefitted our society in many ways, it has also made it very difficult on relationships. Information is so public and easily-accessed which can ignite jealousy in many users’ relationships.

Facebook jealousy is not something that only affects those in relationships. However, this research study will focus on college age students (17 to 24) that are in relationships to see how Facebook directly affects them.


Facebook is a relatively new social media site that was launched in 2004. Originally started for Harvard students, Facebook has grown into the largest social networking site in the world—having billions of users (All About Facebook). The most popular aspect of Facebook is that allows friends and family to connect around the world. It provides a chat function, allows users to share photos and videos, and helps users to meet new people on the site if they wish. Users can choose to make their profile private or public depending on their preference. The presence of Facebook has provided many advantages that have changed the way that we communicate with one another and define our social life. Facebook has allowed users to have a larger social circle. Relationships can be sustained longer—especially when physical limitations are present. However, Facebook has also added unnecessary stress and anxiety to users’ lives (Price). This is largely due to the (sometimes) unwanted information that users find on Facebook combined with users’ incessant need to continually check their own page. This is especially true in the romantic relationships.

Jealousy is a human emotion that can vary from person to person. The degree to which one gets jealous depends largely on one’s personality and confidence. It can develop from unhappiness with one’s present situation or envy over another’s possession or situation, among many other circumstances. It is based on one’s own attitudes and opinions regarding various subjects.

Publicity is the degree to which something is publicly exposed. On the internet it is important to note that everything has some degree of publicity—that is, nothing is ever completely private. Although it may be unapparent, everything that is posted has some way of being seen by all internet users.

Facebook Features

Photos: Photos are one of the main jealousy-igniters in the Facebook community. A recent study in Germany revealed that participants who are Facebook users blame Facebook for 20% of the jealousy they feel throughout their lives (Krasnova). This, mainly, was because of the shared photos that friends can post on their profiles. Those who were jealous of their Facebook friends would witness first-hand exactly the thing that was making them jealous. For example, if a woman was in a relationship and was very territorial, a photo of her boyfriend with another woman might ignite jealousy. Once a photo is posted, Facebook users have the ability to “tag” their friends in the photo. This tag makes the photo available on anyone’s profile that is tagged in the photo. More specifically, the photo will not just show up on the person’s profile who posted the original photo, but also on anyone who has been tagged. Facebook recently made a change that when someone is tagged in a picture; they must approve the tag before the photo appears on their profile. However, this was a very recent change and in the past, all tagged photos would automatically appear on someone’s profile. Obviously, this would add to the overall jealousy factor that Facebook ignites.

Friend Requests: Another aspect of Facebook that allows people to connect to one another is that people can friend-request fellow users. Once a friend request is sent, the requested user must accept or deny that friend request. This feature often sparks jealousy because it allows users to reconnect with former partners (Sarkis). Additionally, once a friend request is accepted, the information is posted onto someone’s profile so any user (that is friends with the person) can see this information. Also, if someone is friends with another person, they have the ability to scroll through a list of their friends. So, in a relationship, this can cause extreme jealousy if one person is communicating with a former ex.

Wall posts: If users are friends with one another, they are able to post messages on one another’s wall. These posts do not have to be approved by the user’s wall they appear on. Because of that, anything can be posted on a wall at anytime. Additionally, people can comment on other’s wall posts or photos. Posts can be taken out of context, resulting in jealously in the relationship if there are already tendencies there (Sarkis).

All of the above Facebook features contribute to the issues of relationship jealousy for one main reason: they are all very publicized. Once someone is friends with someone, photos, friends, and wall posts are all of display. Of course, there are settings where one can manage what their friends see. However, in a recent survey of college students, less than 40% managed who could see their Facebook content. When interviewed, one respondent replied that the main reason she managed her Facebook content was because of future employers—not to hide information from her boyfriend.

Another factor that contributes to Facebook jealousy is that Facebook cannot be monitored 24 hours a day. If someone posts a comment on someone’s wall, they might not have the chance to see it (and possibly delete it) before someone else does. For example, it is very probable that someone’s girlfriend may see a post before they actual wall owner may see it.

So, the real question is, why is Facebook causing so many jealousy issues for college students?

According to a study published in CyberPsychology & Behavior Journal, there are key reasons why Facebook can contribute to jealousy (Muise):

• Accessibly of information: As mentioned above, everything on Facebook is extremely publicized and available to the public. In a relationship, it would be very difficult to hide something from one’s partner. One participant in a survey stated, “Facebook was always a great way for me to check up on my ex-boyfriend. Not only could I see who he was hanging out with when we weren’t together but also see who he is talking to.” Serge Desmerais, one of the researchers in the study, said “In the past, people in romantic or sexual relationships were not, for the most part, subjected to daily scrutiny of their social exchanges by their partner. But this is the new reality for some: aspects of their lives that were once private are now open for all to see” (Facebook makes partners jealous, researchers say).

• Facebook as an addiction: There is a direct correlation between the amount of time spent on Facebook and the level of jealousy within a relationship (Sarkis). If people are constantly on Facebook, they are denying their partner quality time that could be used to strengthen the relationship. Additionally, the Facebook jealousy cycle is a vicious one. If one feels extremely jealous of their partner and they feel they are finding information from Facebook, they will only be encouraged and continue to use Facebook as a source of information.

• Lack of context: When someone sees something on Facebook, they are forced to take it at face value. They will have no idea what context surrounds the picture or wall post, and therefore, may overreact to something that may be innocent. Another participant in an interview said, “I know when I see something on my boyfriend’s Facebook wall I jump to conclusions. But, I get so heated that we always erupt in a fight before talking it out.” Sherry Turkle seems to agree with this philosophy as well. On page 15, Turkle gives an example of a 21 year old woman who uses social media as a news source. She states that she does not like using her cell phone for communication. Rather, “I like texting, Twitter, looking at someone’s Facebook wall. I learn what I need to know” (Turkle 15). Clearly, this demonstrates that college students tend to take things more at face value with no context—women specifically.

Does gender matter?

Looking back at recent studies and a survey that was conducted, it is apparent that women are more affected by the Facebook jealousy issue than men. According to the study posted in CyberPsychology & Behavior, the 3.29 women were affected by jealousy compared to the 2.81 men. This can be cited for two main reasons: Women are more likely to use social media sites than men and men and women have different expectations for Facebook.

A study conducted by Rebtel, a mobile VoIP company, discovered that women use social media much more than men do (68% of women compared to the 54% of men) (Emerson). Because women are on Facebook much more than men, they are more likely to use it as a means of information. Additionally, they expose themselves more to coming across information they may not want to see that pertains to their partner. Ironically, it has been discovered that women have an average of 55% more wall posts than men (Emerson). One would think that this might make the men more prone to jealousy because they have more to look at. When asked about this, one survey respondent answered, “I think that’s weird that we have more posts than guys. But actually it makes sense. My boyfriend doesn’t get that many posts on his wall. So when we do, it immediately attracts my attention.”

Another difference between men and women regarding Facebook is that women see Facebook as more of an information source whereas men see it as a form of entertainment. One male respondent said “I see Facebook as more of a time waster. It easy to zone out in class and let the time fly by. I don’t like getting into the drama of Facebook.” Most of the women in the survey believed that Facebook was a reliable source of information. They spent more time on Facebook and therefore were more invested in the information it provided.

So what is the solution?

Couples nowadays are contemplating making a social media prenuptial agreement. This helps to defer any potential arguments that could cause jealousy within the relationship. By setting boundaries for social media sites, like Facebook, relationships can resist the normal problems that accompany Facebook usage.


In the end, this is all circumstantial evidence. There are, of course, exceptions to the generalities that were made in this research project. However, it cannot be denied that Facebook usage does increase jealousy within romantic relationships. More specifically, women are more prone to this feeling than men because of their added time on the site and their expectations for what Facebook provides. Of course, this degree of jealousy depends on each person and their personality. But, we live in an age now where Facebook has been ingrained in our society. We have come to rely on the information posted on there and look to it as a normal news source. Facebook has undeniably affected our generation.


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