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The true meaning of Facebook's 'in a relationship'

February 23, 2012|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Relationship status on Facebook matters to couples, but more so to women.
Relationship status on Facebook matters to couples, but more so to women. (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

The relationship status feature of Facebook appears to be central to the happiness – or not – of many romantic relationships among young people, according to new research.

The study, appearing in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, surveyed 58 heterosexual couples -- most college-age -- who had been dating for an average of 19 months. The study showed that partners tended to be similar in how they used social media and the importance they placed on it. In 45 of the 58 couples, both partners reported being in a relationship on Facebook. And in 31 of the couples, both male and female partners showed their dating partner in the profile picture. Men were somewhat more likely to include their girlfriend in their profile photos than vice versa.

A potentially troublesome gender difference emerged, however. Females' indication that they are “in a relationship” was not as important to their male partners compared with how females felt about male partners indicating they are “in a relationship.”

You can see where this is going.

 “. . .men and women may place differential importance on certain public portrayals of the relationship,” wrote the authors, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The study showed that couples do have fights over the relationship status feature on Facebook, which is probably linked to feelings of “jealousy, commitment and power,” particularly for females, the study’s authors said.

More research is needed about the growing importance of social media in relationships in order to promote healthy and happy relationships, they said. But one thing seems to be clear for guys with girlfriends: Dude, don’t think your Facebook page is trivial.

twitter.com/LATShariRoan

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