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Can Post-Breakup Facebook Surveillance Delay Emotional Recovery?

September 19, 2012

More than 900 million people worldwide are active users of the social networking site Facebook, and it is estimated that as many as one-third report using Facebook to check on the activities of former romantic partners. The effects of remaining Facebook friends with an ex-lover or even just following their activities online can disrupt a person’s ability to heal emotionally and move on with his or her life, according to an article in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert Inc., publishers (http://www.liebertpub.com). The article is available free online on the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking website.

The study entitled “Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with PostBreakup Recovery and Personal Growth” assessed the effects of continued Facebook contact with an ex-partner and of Facebook surveillance, in which there is no actual online contact, but one individual monitors the Facebook page and postings of another.

The study collected data from 464 participants to evaluate their Facebook usage and their emotional recovery and personal adjustment following the breakup of a romantic relationship. It evaluated parameters such as negative feelings, sexual desire and emotional longing for the ex-partner, and feelings of reduced personal growth as measures of distress and the ability to move forward with their lives.

“This study sees again virtual life mirroring real life. Just as real life contact with ex-partners may inhibit growth, healing, and well-being, so may virtual contact,” says Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCIA, Editor-in-Chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, from the Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, CA.

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