Special Report: Can Facebook Affect Your Marriage?

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX)- Facebook and other social networking sites have revolutionized the way we communicate. But while the sites help reconnect users with old friends and relatives, they're also tearing some couples apart.

Susan Waters, Ph. D., is a professor of Communications & Journalism at Auburn University. She's found some startling statistics- 1 in 5 adults use Facebook for flirting and 20% of cheating spouses connected with the other person on Facebook.

"It might be the super highway to divorce. We now know that one of the fastest growing segments of Facebook usability is the older baby boomer and even older group. They're going on Facebook and finding their long lost love," she said.

That's where Jason and Kelli Krafsky come in. They call themselves the "Social Media Couple" and have written a book and several informative blogs on the impact Facebook is having on marriages. We interviewed them via Skype from their home outside of Seattle.

"There's this philosophy that if you're a cheater, you're always a cheater and if it's not Facebook, you'll find some other way to do it. That's really not the case with Facebook. We're finding that it's people who are in healthy marriages, strong marriages, Christian marriages we're one half discovers this old mate and makes some bad decisions," Jason told WXTX.

"They're mistaking it as missing out on the opportunity to be with their soul mate and really it is just nostalgia," Kelli added.

The Krafskys call it the "new midlife crisis." Case in point, a married couple of 13 years. The wife reconnects with her high school sweetheart on Facebook and makes plans to live her husband and children and start fresh with her old flame. But no happy ending here- she followed through with the plans only to find out her old boyfriend had no intention of doing the same.

"This woman found herself without her marriage, without her kids, lost her reputation with her family and is now kind of stuck with a fantasy that didn't pan out," Jason revealed.

Rob Kaple, a pastor who works with young adults in Columbus at Evangel Temple on Veterans Parkway, has seen firsthand how social networks have contributed to the collapse of once stable and loving unions.

"There's a danger- people are being more bold than they'd normally be," he said.

But jilted spouses aren't taking Facebook philandering lying down. In fact, they're turning the tables.

The mom choosing Facebook over spending time with her kids- her husband used it against her in custody hearings.

"The divorce lawyers found that 81% of lawyers across the United States are now using Facebook as evidence for divorce. Facebook is now the perfect opportunity for lawyers to find the evidence that they need," Dr. Waters explained.

There are ways to safeguard your marriage before things get to the point of no return.

According to the Krafskys, married couples need to set up their own boundaries and rules.

They recommend sharing your usernames and passwords with one another.

"Even if there was that temptation, you know that your spouse, at any time, can log in and see what's going on," Jason said.

And when it comes to being friends with an ex, just don't do it.

"There's really no need to bring those people back into your life," Kelli said.

And lastly, limit the time you spend on Facebook. Try some real face time instead.

"Facebook isn't the problem and it's not going anywhere but it definitely provides new opportunity for people to communicate in a healthy way or unhealthy way with people outside of their relationship. Viewing the social networking scene as an extension of our real world is the healthiest thing to do," Kaple added.

There are millions of Facebookers but there's a handful you might want to steer clear of.

Before exchanging flirty messages with someone of the opposite sex, consider if it's worth the risk. It could have a devastating effect on your current love life.