Could Facebook be sowing seeds of jealousy?

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This may come as no surprise to regular users of Facebook, but students who are heavy users of the social-networking tool tend to report more jealousy toward their romantic partners than students who use the site less often.

In a new Canadian study, 308 students aged 17 to 24 were asked about the time they spend on Facebook, their traits for jealousy in real life (real life outside of Facebook, I mean), and also the unique feelings of jealousy they get while using the site. The researchers even created their own “Facebook jealousy scale.” It’s calculated from questions like, “How likely are you to become jealous after your partner has added an unknown member of the opposite sex [to a Facebook friend list]?”

The study found that more time on Facebook lines up with greater Facebook jealousy, even controlling for jealousy traits offline. So is it Facebook that’s making people jealous online, or do Facebook-jealous people simply choose to use the site a lot? The study authors argue “that both options are inevitably intertwined,” and that the site may create a “feedback loop” of jealousy for some users. In comments after they took the survey, students explained that seeing snippets of their partners’ personal lives on Facebook did make them more jealous, but that the jealousy then made them anxious to monitor their partners more closely. And where better to do it (discreetly) than Facebook?