Researchers study what Facebook reveals about our relationships

Oct 26, 2012 by Gavin Au-yeung

You know that Facebook friend who's always uploading photos to publicize his perfect romance. Maybe you are that friend.

But do those photos reveal any truths about our relationships?
 
Yes, says a new study led by University of Toronto researchers; from our relationships to our personalities, the way we portray ourselves online reflects the lives we live offline.
 
"When first became really popular, I think there was this idea that people were posting false identities online - and we're finding that's not the case," says lecturer Amy Muise of the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). "I think a big reason for that is because we're really anchored by our offline identities on Facebook.
 
"Facebook isn't really anonymous, most of our friends on Facebook are people we know in real life, so we might be able to manage people's impressions a little bit, but because people often know us offline there doesn't seem to be a large amount of deceit going on.
 
And displaying a dyadic photo (one showing both partners) as a profile image on Facebook can be a significant indicator of relationship satisfaction, Muise says.
 
With U of T Mississauga professor Emily Impett, Matt Dubin from Claremont Graduate University and Laura Saslow from the University of California, Muise has co-authored a paper entitled "Can you see how happy we are? Facebook images and Relationship Satisfaction". Recently published in the Journal of and Personality Science, the paper comprises three separate studies.
 
In the first study, 115 people were asked about their shared Facebook photos in comparison to how they rated their satisfaction with . The second study examined levels of among 148 people and tracked photos posted over the course of a year. The final study involved 108 couples keeping daily diaries which were compared with their online postings about their relationship.
 
Researchers found people were more likely to post relationship-related content on Facebook on days they were greatly satisfied about their relationship.
 
"We know from traditional research that couples who feel closer in their relationships are more likely to use pronouns like 'we'," explains Muise. "And so, in a sense, Facebook provides another way to explore that relationship, and a dyadic profile picture can be seen as a modern way of expressing this idea of we-ness."
 
Facebook was effective for the study because sharing about relationships is built into the website, says Muise. Users are encouraged to upload pictures of people with whom they spend time, and to fill out and display a relationship status on their profile.
 
While the recent study links profile pictures with happiness, Muise is also interested in exploring relationship visibility on Facebook further, including our reactions to those who post frequently—or perhaps excessively—about their relationship.
 
"I'm planning another study now with colleagues where we're trying to answer that exact question," she says. "Does there become a point where it's just too much?"

Explore further: Twitter rules out Turkey office amid tax row

Related Stories

Just like teens, parents get personal on Facebook

Jul 11, 2011

They may not dress like Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez, but parents are a whole lot like their teenagers when it comes to their behaviour on Facebook. That's the finding of a new study by University of Guelph researchers.

Does Facebook usage contribute to jealousy in relationships?

Aug 06, 2009

The more time college students spend on Facebook, the more likely they are to feel jealous toward their romantic partners, leading to more time on Facebook searching for additional information that will further fuel their ...

Recommended for you

Net neutrality balancing act

3 hours ago

Researchers in Italy, writing in the International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management have demonstrated that net neutrality benefits content creator and consumers without compromising provider innovation nor pr ...

Twitter rules out Turkey office amid tax row

Apr 16, 2014

Social networking company Twitter on Wednesday rejected demands from the Turkish government to open an office there, following accusations of tax evasion and a two-week ban on the service.

How does false information spread online?

Apr 16, 2014

Last summer the World Economic Forum (WEF) invited its 1,500 council members to identify top trends facing the world, including what should be done about them. The WEF consists of 80 councils covering a wide range of issues including social media. Members come ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Telekinetic
1.5 / 5 (8) Oct 26, 2012
With marriages ending in divorce 50% of the time, this study is factually misrepresentative. Also, If you feel compelled to share your private life with virtual strangers in order to convince yourself that you're living the "good life", then it's more likely you're leading a life of quiet desperation.
Technophebe
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 26, 2012
I think you've confused "factually misrepresentative" with "disagrees with my personal views on relationships".
BSD
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2012
What is the point of Facebook and Twitter?

More news stories

Tailored approach key to cookstove uptake

Worldwide, programs aiming to give safe, efficient cooking stoves to people in developing countries haven't had complete success—and local research has looked into why.

A sharp eye on Southern binary stars

Unlike our sun, with its retinue of orbiting planets, many stars in the sky orbit around a second star. These binary stars, with orbital periods ranging from days to centuries, have long been the primary ...