Helpful or harmful? Exploring the impact of social media usage on intimate relationships
Internet access in Australia is increasing with the most popular online activity reported by Australians being social media use. The literature is divided as to whether social media use is helpful or harmful to intimate relationships. Recent research from an Australian family counselling provider indicates that social media use is resulting in negative intimate relationship outcomes, echoing recent American research findings. However, other researchers note that social media use can have positive outcomes for intimate relationships and individuals. These different findings prompted this research which focuses on the impact of social media usage on intimate relationships using Facebook as a case study. A survey of 518 Australians examining Facebook usage, relationship satisfaction and household income was undertaken. The results suggest that relationship satisfaction varies based on types of social media usage when controlled for household income. For most respondents, social media usage did not have a negative impact on their relationship. However, results indicated that where their partner was a ‘friend’ on social media, they were less likely to report concerns relating to social media usage impacting their relationship. It was also found that those living alone or with children on low incomes were more likely to be dissatisfied with their relationships and rely on social media to connect with others. Finally, four types of Facebook usage were identified and mapped against intensity of usage and relationship satisfaction, indicating that the way in which social media is used impacts relationship satisfaction. These findings indicate that social media use is helpful for some intimate relationships and harmful for others based on individual usage and their interaction with their partner via the platform.
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