Facebook is less of a threat to your relationship than memory, study suggests

Even thinking about someone who is a potential romantic interest is apparently enough to lower the individual’s relationship satisfaction

Social media covers a whole host of sins. Last year a study suggested that WhatsApp messages were being used as evidence of unfaithfulness in forty per cent of Italian divorce cases, while the basic logistics of cheating are easier than ever before.

But according to a new study published in Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking, social media sites like Facebook aren’t nearly as much of a threat as your own imagination.

A team of researchers at Indiana University examined the role that Facebook played for people who were thinking about a relationship with someone other than their partner.

371 young, unmarried undergraduate students in “committed relationships” were asked to complete a survey to determine how much looking through desirable profiles could adversely affect their current relationship.

The authors of the study found that, while Facebook can act as a primer for "sexual alternatives", the ones we keep in our memories (the office crush or that barista who gives you a free coffee every week) are the most threatening to our existing committed partner.

Even thinking about someone who is a potential romantic interest is apparently enough to lower the individual’s relationship satisfaction.

"Long before technology emerged, we were cheating, breaking up, and divorcing because we found alternative partners,” the authors wrote. “With or without technology, we continue to do so, using our minds to store information about the potential partners who pose real threats to our romantic relationships."

So while a similar study last month suggested you should “unfriend” your partner on Facebook to improve your relationship, deleting the social site is unlikely to decrease adulterous attitudes.

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