"One in five marriages are destroyed by the nation's most popular website." So says a press release for a new study from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. What's more, 80 percent of the association's members — all divorce attorneys — also report that they have seen an increase, during the past five years, in the number of couples who cite social networking as a source of tension.
More cheaters using Facebook? I have to wonder if this would have been a little like saying, back in the early days of the T-Model Fords, that 80 percent of divorce lawyers saw an increase in the number of cars used to conduct affairs. Know what I mean?
Aren't people who cheat going to cheat regardless of whether or not new technology aids and abets them in their nefarious doings? My guess is that a lot of them would.
Then again, Facebook helps to create, world-wide, what I might call "The New York City Effect": You realize you have access to tons and tons of people — people whom you might be shagging. And it can make you a little more tempted than you would be if it seemed like your only options were your annoying co-worker and that no-so-hot grandchild of your great-aunt's pinochle partner, whom she keeps trying to set you up with. Here in the city that never sleeps (because it's too busy sleeping around!), you don't even need to get on your laptop to look for sexy people. They just appear, one after the other, as you sit on the sidewalk bench or as you stand in line for your morning coffee.
This problem also arises with dating sites: You meet a person through an Internet singles warehouse like my personal fave, OkCupid, and he's great … but maybe one of the million other guys on the site is more awesome? Or a guy meets you and thinks you're great but wonders, "What about that other hot chick who keeps emailing me?" As a male friend of mine once put it, a dating site is a little like a gorgeous fruit stand where everything is free — and you want just one bite of each.
It's the whole damn "paradox of choice" thing. As Barry Schwartz puts it in the 2004 book that made that phrase popular: "Autonomy and freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically."
What do you guys think? Are dating sites making it easier to meet people, but harder to settle down? Is social media helping to give us more choices, but only making us more miserable?