You know those Facebook friends who constantly post date-night photos and messages like “Came home and boo made dinner! #blessed”? The ones who could never be that happy in real life?
Well, turns out they might be. A new study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture (a journal of the American Psychological Association) found that couples who post lots of couple-y stuff on Facebook were associated with higher levels of relationship quality.
For the study, researchers from the University of Houston and Pennsylvania State University recruited 188 participants aged 18 to 53 who were currently in a relationship. In order to determine how their Facebook posts affected their offline relationships, participants were measured on four key items (bear with us):
- Dispositional authenticity (how honest they were with themselves): Participants were asked to rate themselves on statements such as “I understand why I believe the things I do about myself” and “I find it very difficult to critically assess myself.”
- Relationship authenticity (how honest they were about their relationships): Participants rated themselves on statements such as “I’d rather think the best of my partner than to know the whole truth about him or her” or “I share my deepest thoughts with my partner even if there’s a chance that he or she won’t understand them.”
- Relationship awareness: This item measured a relationship's presence on Facebook. Did partners post profile pictures with their significant other? Did they tag them in status updates? Did they define their relationship status?
- Relationship quality: This item measured relationship satisfaction, closeness, and commitment. Participants answered questions such as “In general, how satisfied are you with your relationship?” and rated statements such as “I want our relationship to last for a very long time.”
In the end, researchers found that participants who posted frequently about their relationship on Facebook—i.e. displayed more "relationship awareness"—were associated with a higher degree of relationship quality!
The researchers think the association may come down to honesty: People who are more honest in their relationships aren't afraid to share (and share) about their relationships online. Or reversely, through making public declarations of their love, participants are motivated to be more honest in their relationships—and that, in turn, leads to greater satisfaction.
Of course, other studies have suggested a darker side of Facebook sharing—namely that it communicates a skewed reality, and that people who overshare suffer from depression and loneliness.
The authors address these concerns head on, arguing that intent is key: “It may be that negative or positive effects related to Facebook use are not innate to the medium itself but rather these effects are an artifact of how people elect to use Facebook.”
In other words: Happy people in happy relationships may elect to use Facebook in a positive way. #blessed
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.