Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

A Qualitative Investigation of College Students' Facebook Usage and Romantic Relationships: Implications for College Counselors

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

A Qualitative Investigation of College Students' Facebook Usage and Romantic Relationships: Implications for College Counselors

Article excerpt

The use of social media is a societal trend influencing the way that individuals communicate with and relate to one another. Moreover, Facebook use may facilitate or hinder individuals' relationship growth and development The purpose of this article Is to (a) review research examining Facebook usage and interpersonal relationships, (b) present qualitative Insight into the Facebook experiences of college students (N = 16) from a large southeastern university, and (c) offer implications for college counselors.

Keywords: college counseling, Facebook, qualitative inquiry, romantic relationships


The college years present a distinct developmental stage for young adults between late adolescence and young adulthood (Arnett, 2007). During this developmental stage, college students are discovering themselves, forming intimate relationships, and acquiring more responsibilities. Relationship problems are among the primary presenting issues in university counseling centers for both male and female students (Gibbons & Shurts, 2010). The use of social networking sites is popular among college students, who report averaging between 1 and 2 hours per day on Facebook (Kalpidou, Costin, & Morris, 2011). Facebook users can share information about their romantic relationships to a larger network of people much more quickly and easily than they can through traditional face-to-face communication (Fox & Warber, 2013). Given Facebook's role in the social interactions of college students, as well as the importance that undergraduate students place on their romantic relationships, it is imperative to investigate college students' lived experiences with Facebook during the development of these relationships.

Facebook and Intimate Couples

Facebook is a social networking website that launched in February 2004. As of fall 2015, there were 1.55 billion active Facebook users, making it the second most accessed website, second only to Google (Facebook, 2015). Facebook usage is linked to jealousy and relationship distress between undergraduate partners (Elphinston & Noller, 2011). Because of increased jealousy, college students admit to regularly checking their partner's profile for signs of infidelity, such as inappropriate messages or photos (Darvell, Walsh, & White, 2011). In addition, relationship status and profile pictures are powerful gauges of relationship satisfaction within student couples who use Facebook (Papp, Danielewicz, & Cayemberg, 2012). Hand, Thomas, Buboltz, Deemer, and Buyanjargal (2013) examined the relationships between relationship satisfaction, intimacy, and Facebook usage and identified a positive relationship between relationship satisfaction and intimacy and a negative relationship between perceived partner Facebook usage and intimacy. Therefore, the influence of Facebook on intimacy and relationship satisfaction should not be overlooked.

Facebook and Romantic Relationships

Facebook influences emerging adults' romantic relationships both positively and negatively. Facebook may be viewed positively because it (a) is a beneficial form of social integration for shy individuals (Kalpidou et al., 2011), (b) relates to increased life satisfaction (Valenzuela, Park, & Kee, 2009), and (c) helps people who struggle with social anxiety to feel less lonely and isolated (Sheldon, 2012). However, Facebook negatively influences relationships because it can (a) support less verbal communication between student partners (Bergdall et al., 2012), (b) support online infidelity (Cravens, Leckie, & Whiting, 2013), (c) sustain a lack of being present (Turkle, 2011), and (d) increase stress and health risks (Campisi et al., 2012).

Facebook has a mixed influence on college students' relationships; nonetheless, the majority of individuals seeking counseling services do so because of a relationship problem (Gibbons & Shurts, 2010). …

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