The Effect of Social Media Addiction on Romantic Relationship Outcomes: Factors Associated with Social Media Addiction

Abbasi, I. 2021. The Effect of Social Media Addiction on Romantic Relationship Outcomes: Factors Associated with Social Media Addiction. PhD thesis University of Westminster Social Sciences

TitleThe Effect of Social Media Addiction on Romantic Relationship Outcomes: Factors Associated with Social Media Addiction
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsAbbasi, I.

Does exposure to glamorous profiles on social media evoke romantic dissatisfaction? Or is social media a refuge for unsatisfied partners? Social networking sites (SNSs) have simplified virtual interactions with strangers cum instant ‘friends’, whose embellished profiles evoke jealousy, envy, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness. SNSs also provide easy access to alternative romantic partners, which adversely affects commitment to the primary relationship. Commitment is choosing to forsake other choices. Theoretically, commitment to a romantic partner diminishes if alternative partners are readily available. Researchers argue that preoccupation with SNSs activities and monitoring romantic alternatives affect commitment by lowering satisfaction, offering alternatives, and displacing time and emotional investments. Authors of existing studies have mostly used college student populations to examine the effect of SNSs use on romantic relationships. Findings from such studies cannot be generalised to other populations because college students are less likely to be committed, cohabiting, or married. To increase the generalisability of research, I designed three independent studies to explore factors that are linked with SNSs compulsive use (addiction) in both college and non-college populations.

The results showed that romantic disengagement was positively linked with Facebook addiction, and that relationship commitment alone was not enough to protect committed partners against Facebook addiction. Younger partners, irrespective of their relationship status (committed or dating), were predisposed to SNSs addiction and SNSs-related infidelity behaviours. They also experienced low commitment and were more likely to subscribe to a significantly greater number of SNS accounts than older partners. Dating partners, as opposed to committed partners, reported better quality of available romantic alternatives (especially sexual alternatives) despite reporting no difference in their SNSs-related infidelity behaviours or relationship satisfaction. There was also a significant positive relationship between SNSs addiction and SNSs-related infidelity behaviours, and this relationship was moderated by age. Additionally, neuroticism was connected with negative affect and Facebook addiction partially mediated this relationship. Finally, mental health status was also linked with SNSs addiction and this relationship was partially mediated by SNSs-related infidelity behaviours.

Overall, SNSs addiction appeared to be linked with adverse personal (neuroticism, mental illness) and romantic outcomes (romantic disengagement, low commitment, SNSs-related infidelity). Relationship status (dating vs committed/married) and age also appeared to influence the connection between SNSs addiction and adverse behaviours. Future studies can build on these findings and explore other SNSs behaviours that are linked with adverse relationship outcomes. SNSs are likely to remain the main platform for virtual communications for the foreseeable future. Therefore, users should be wary of SNSs interactions that can potentially jeopardise their romantic relationships.

File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
PublishedFeb 2021
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

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