Another day, another Facebook study blaming society’s ills on social media. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has been accused in the past of making people miserable, narcissistic, or actually crazy, and this time it’s supposedly driving people to cheat on their partners.
Study is based on an online poll
The study has a great title: “Cheating, Breakup, and Divorce: Is Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) Use to Blame?” but the question mark is appropriate. The study was an online 16-question poll that got 205 responses, so we’re not talking about a rigorous study with a high confidence level. Also, lead author Russell Clayton is a University of Missouri postdoctoral student – in the school of journalism. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but it’s a detail that tends not to get mentioned, allowing readers to think the study was done by social scientists.
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The small sample size is unfortunately typical of overhyped studies (the study that said Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) drives people crazy had a sample size of three, and all three were identified because they were in treatment), and so is over-generalization.
“The researchers found that high levels of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) use among couples significantly predicted Facebook-related conflict, which then significantly predicted negative relationship outcomes such as cheating, breakup, and divorce,” writes Reports Nathan Hurst at the University of Missouri News Bureau.
So if you’re on Facebook all the time, your partner might get mad at you. If you keep it up, he or she might leave. That’s a very different claim than Facebook use makes people unfaithful. But even this more narrow assertion comes with a big caveat.
“These findings held only for couples who had been in relationships of three years or less,” said Clayton. “This suggests that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) may be a threat to relationships that are not fully matured.” Since this filter makes the sample size even smaller than the original 205, it could also suggest that the online poll should be taken with a very large grain of salt.
People who spend all day on Facebook may already have issues
Finally, and most importantly, these studies never seem to ask the obvious question. Why is this person on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) so much anyways? If someone who has been in a relationship for less than three years would rather chat up an ex online than spend time with his or her partner, Facebook probably isn’t the root of the problem.