Can Facebook Ruin Your Marriage?

It turns out the kiss of death for marriages might be more like a poke.

ByABC News
May 22, 2012, 3:31 PM

May 24, 2012— -- It turns out the kiss of death for marriages might be more like a poke.

A third of all divorce filings in 2011 contained the word "Facebook," according to Divorce Online. And more than 80 percent of U.S. divorce attorneys say social networking in divorce proceedings is on the rise, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Divorce lawyer Marian Rosen, who practices in Houston, said she's increasingly seen social media cited in divorce proceedings and child custody battles.

"We've had instances where they pull up Facebook in the course of a deposition," Rosen told ABC News, adding that in addition to proving infidelity, she's seen cases in which children's profiles are cited as evidence to suggest bad parenting. "Once it's out there for the world, it's very difficult … to erase from the past. There are going to be trails that can be followed."

Three years ago, 20 percent of divorce filings contained the word "Facebook." By 2011, it had risen to 33 percent, according to AAML. Despite the increase, the top Facebook mentions were the same: inappropriate messages to "friends" of the opposite sex, and cruel posts or comments between separated spouses. Sometimes, Facebook friends would tattle to one partner in a relationship about bad behavior by the other.

None of this surprises Ilana Gershon, an Indiana University professor and author of "The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media." For her book, Gershon interviewed 72 people from their late teens to their late 50s to discuss the role social media played in their breakups.

"It turns out a lot of my interviews revolved around Facebook," she told ABC News. "I feel quite thrilled when I get a Skype breakup or a text message story instead. Finally not Facebook," she joked.

Although most of Gershon's research involved college students, she interviewed older and now-divorced adults who were often stuck in cycles of making up and breaking up with the same partner. To end the cycle, some would break up with a Facebook wall post.

"One of the things I found was that people would sometimes turn to these media as a way to finally end the relationship," Gershon said. "They would use a medium that was so unacceptable that it would make the other partner furious…'How could I have been with someone who is willing to text this?'"

Gershon found that many college students deactivated their Facebook accounts to save their relationships. Since Facebook posts are mostly tiny nuggets of information provided without context, partners said they became suspicious and started to stalk each others' profiles. It became something to quit.

"They describe Facebook as something that would turn them into jealous, distrustful people," Gershon said. "It was a really interesting question for me because one stopped texting or emailing to save a relationship. Why do people feel Facebook transformed who they are?"

We guess it's complicated.