- (Photo: AP Images / The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)
Some 33 percent of divorce petitions filed in the United Kingdom referenced Facebook in 2011, an increase of 20 percent since 2009, according to a recent survey conducted by a U.K. divorce website.
Divorce-Online surveyed 5,000 divorce petitions between 2009 and 2011. The main three reasons regarding Facebook-related causes for filing a divorce were: inappropriate messages sent to the opposite sex; posting nasty comments about former partners; and friends reporting a spouse's behavior on the social media website, according to Divorce-Online's blog post on the survey.
Many people seem to be too careless about the power behind social media, and unaware that statements posted on Facebook and Twitter have legal validity.
"People need to be careful what they write on their walls as the courts are seeing these posts being used in financial disputes and children cases as evidence," Mark Keenan, spokesman for Divorce-Online, said in a statement.
Twenty petitions out of the 5,000 cases surveyed reportedly named Twitter as the cause for divorce, with the social networking site used to making comments about exes.
Experts have been noting that the Internet has become a breeding ground for adultery, with many affairs reportedly starting online.
"Online affairs differ from physical world affairs in some ways, but are similar in others," Kerby Anderson wrote about online affairs for Probe Ministries, a Christian think tank. "Cyberaffairs are based upon written communication where a person may feel more free to express herself anonymously than in person. Frequently the communication becomes sexually graphic and kinky in ways that probably would not occur if a real person were hearing these comments and could act on them."
Another Christian think tank, Pure Hope, counts online communication as potentially harmful for marriages and relationship values as online access to pornography.
"Today, mobile technology and social media are changing society in remarkably exciting ways. At the same time, they are exposing young people to shockingly destructive sexual content, behavior, and exploitation," Pure Hope wrote in its monthly bulletin in Jan. 2011.
But another expert, Michael Fox, a Christian marriage counselor who, together with his wife Trisha, hosts a radio show called "Marriage For Today," thinks that demonizing social media is a bit of an exaggeration.
"The role of social media has definitely played its part in the increase of marital affairs, divorces and disasters that continually plague our society's fabric of morality," he said in a statement to The Christian Post Monday. "However, so have bars, radio, TV, clubs, phone, well... you get the picture. As we often express to others, media is not the problem - it's a 'heart' issue!"
"In essence, if you take away Facebook, Twitter, and all the media outlets, guess what? You'll still have infidelity issues! What we really need to do it get to the heart of the matter - help fix the crumbling marriages that give way for the ‘need’ to look elsewhere," he added. "Let's stop using band-aids and help the scarred tissue heal by focusing on the hearts of married couples."
Earlier last year the Guardian reported that Facebook has been enhancing infidelity, although no specific numbers were offered.
"We're coming across it more and more. One spouse connects online with someone they knew from school. The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook," Dr. Steven Kimmons, a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor at Loyola University Medical Centre near Chicago, told the British daily at the time.
A 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that four out of five lawyers reported an increasing number of divorce cases citing evidence derived from social networking sites in the past five years, with Facebook being the market leader, according to the Guardian. The New York Times has also reported on the issue.