“If your boyfriend is calling or texting another girl, you can’t really see it. But on Facebook, you can see it and so can everyone else,” Siciliano said. “So in a way, you do get jealous because he might be hanging his dirty laundry, and not only are you seeing it, but other people are, too.”
Colin Booth of West Virginia University said he is not the jealous type, but finds it a strange, modern phenomenon to watch your girlfriend develop other relationships in real time on Facebook.
“It’s been happening forever. You’re with a girl, she meets a guy, they’re friends at first,” Booth said. “But it’s the way you see it and what you see. And then you think: What’s going on under the surface if this is what’s going on in public?”
Laney Cohen, a 24-year-old who works in public relations in New York City, has a longtime boyfriend now in law school in Florida. She began noticing last year that her boyfriend was being tagged in photographs with a female friend who “kind of rubs me the wrong way.” One picture in particular upset her: The pair were in a bar, and the woman was looking up at Cohen’s boyfriend.
“I felt that it was a very couple-y picture to be in, and I freaked out and I called him and said, `This is disrespectful to me and our relationship. What if people start asking questions about why you’re always hanging out with her?'” Cohen recalled.
This is not just a problem for young people, especially as more middle-aged people get on Facebook. Cohen said her father, after 29 years of marriage, was tagged in a 32-year-old photo by a former girlfriend. Cohen’s mother reportedly was amused, not upset.
Muise said researchers are just beginning to learn all the ways social networking sites are changing the way couples relate. She cited the case of a young woman who found out her boyfriend broke up with her when she noticed he had changed his relationship status to “single.”
For her part, Cohen said she and her boyfriend worked out their photo-tagging issue.
“He’s either untagging photos or not showing up in the photos anymore,” she said. “Either way is fine.”
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