More Information than You Ever Wanted: Does Facebook
Bring Out the Green-Eyed Monster of Jealousy?
Amy Muise, M.Sc., Emily Christofides, M.Sc., and Serge Desmarais, Ph.D.
The social network site Facebook is a rapidly expanding phenomenon that is changing the nature of social
relationships. Anecdotal evidence, including information described in the popular media, suggests that Face-
book may be responsible for creating jealousy and suspicion in romantic relationships. The objectives of the
present study were to explore the role of Facebook in the experience of jealousy and to determine if increased
Facebook exposure predicts jealousy above and beyond personal and relationship factors. Three hundred eight
undergraduate students completed an online survey that assessed demographic and personality factors and
explored respondents’ Facebook use. A hierarchical multiple regression analysis, controlling for individual,
personality, and relationship factors, revealed that increased Facebook use significantly predicts Facebook-
related jealousy. We argue that this effect may be the result of a feedback loop whereby using Facebook exposes
people to often ambiguous information about their partner that they may not otherwise have access to and that
this new information incites further Facebook use. Our study provides evidence of Facebook’s unique con-
tributions to the experience of jealousy in romantic relationships.
into a giddy high or momentary despair. In the past, flirty
gestures of interest or signs of subtle disregard remained
entirely within a person’s own control, and partners in close
relationships were most often not subjected to the daily
scrutiny oftheir exchangeswithmembersoftheirsocialcircle.
The development of online social network sites such as
Facebook has created a fundamental shift in this practice. Has
this new reality resulted in all aspects of our lives becoming
result from this degree of social openness?
Facebook, by its very nature, provides easy access to
friends’ and partners’ information, including changes to their
profile, additions of new contacts (termed ‘‘friends’’), and
messages posted on their page (on their virtual ‘‘wall’’). Lee
and Boyer1report that Facebook can play a role in main-
taining long-distance friendships but that college students do
not need Facebook to maintain most of their close friendships.
In fact, some of their friends on Facebook may be quite
superficial, with students reporting having friends that they
have encountered only briefly outside of Facebook.1,2
of affection is sometimes enough to send those involved
While social network sites provide the opportunity to
reunite with long-lost friends, they also allow people to make
information public within their circle of friends and to make
their list of friends itself open to public scrutiny.3Anecdotal
evidence from discussions with undergraduates points to a
common perception that Facebook causes jealousy and nega-
tively impacts romantic and sexual relationships. Similarly, in
a recent popular media article, Persch suggests that Facebook
is responsible for creating jealousy and suspicion in romantic
relationships.4These informal sources suggest that exposing
one’s social network activities in a public domain appears to
have some negative implications for romantic and sexual
relationships. For these reasons, we became interested in Fa-
cebook as a unique environment for the experience of jealousy.
Past research has indicated several personality and
relationship factors that contribute to the experience of jea-
lousy. Feelings of jealousy in a specific situation, such as the
imagined situation of a partner’s infidelity, are predicted by
general levels of emotional jealousy,5or trait jealousy, sug-
gesting that some individuals are more prone than others to
jealousy. Individual levels of trust and self-esteem have also
been associated with the experience of jealousy, where lower
levels of trust are related to more intense and frequent ex-
periences of jealousy,6,7and self-esteem mediates the intensity
Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
CYBERPSYCHOLOGY & BEHAVIOR
Volume 12, Number 4, 2009
ª Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
of jealousy experienced following a relationship threat.8In
addition, White includes self-esteem in his definition of jea-
lousy, describing jealousy as a ‘‘complex of thoughts, feelings
and actions which follow threats to self-esteem and=or threats
to the existence or quality of the relationship.’’9(p24)Relational
uncertainty, and more specifically, doubt about a partner’s in-
volvement in the relationship, also produces jealous responses
from individuals in romantic relationships.10,11Type of re-
lationship and level of commitment have also been shown to
contribute to the experience of jealousy; in general, people in
committed relationships experience less jealousy than those
in newer, more casual ones.12
Exposure to information about a romantic partner’s friends
and social interactions may result in an environment that
enhances jealousy. Sheets et al.13identified four categories of
jealousy-evoking situations: when one’s partner shows in-
terest in another person, when another person shows interest
in one’s partner, when one’s partner talks about or interacts
with prior relational partners, and ambiguous scenes invol-
ving the partner. The ease of making connections on Face-
book may increase contact with past romantic and sexual
partners, creating the potential for jealousy in current
relationships. Facebook also assists in maintaining relation-
ships that may otherwise be only ephemeral,2and it may in
fact connect people who would not otherwise communicate.
In the context of a romantic relationship, exposing one’s
partner to all of these individuals, many of whom may be
unknown to the partner, may increase the potential for jea-
lousy and suspicion.
Social network sites such as Facebook have changed the
nature of public and private in the sense that much more
information is available to individuals about their partner’s
relationships and interactions than they would have with
other online or offline methods of communication. This lack
of privacy in the traditional sense may expose individuals to
more information about their partner than they would access
In light of past research, we believed it important to control
for personal factors such as trait jealousy, trust, and self-
esteem and for relational factors such as relational uncer-
tainty and commitment in our exploration of the links
between Facebook use and jealousy. We predicted that time
spent on Facebook would uniquely contribute to Facebook-
specific jealousy beyond the effects of the personal and rela-
tional factors described in the jealousy literature.
Data were collected as part of a larger study on under-
graduate student use of Facebook. The study was an anon-
ymous online survey, and data were collected according to
the criteria described in Christofides et al.14After removing
35 participants (n¼31 female; n¼4 male) due to missing data
regarding their Facebook usage, 308 respondents (n¼231
female; n¼77 male), ranging in age from 17 to 24 years
(M¼18.70, SD¼0.97), were retained for analysis. At the time
of the survey, the majority of the participants were in a
relationship in which they were seriously dating one person
(50.5%); other participants were casually dating one or more
partners (8.3%), in an open relationship (3.7%), living with
a partner but not married (3.0%), married (0.7%), or
divorced=separated (0.3%). The remaining 33.6 percent of
participants were not currently dating anyone.
The Facebook Jealousy scale (Cronbach’s a¼0.96) was
created for the current study in order to assess the experience
of jealousy in the specific context of Facebook. We compiled
a list of items to reflect aspects of Facebook that have the
potential to contribute to sexual and romantic jealousy. A
group of Facebook users in the target demographic then
reviewed these items for readability and inclusiveness. The
scale was administered to the current sample, and explor-
atory factor analysis (EFA) revealed a one-factor solution
with the first factor yielding an eigenvalue of 12.68 and
accounting for 47.0% of the variance. All items were retained
because the factor loadings ranged from 0.432 to 0.821. The
final scale consisted of 27 items, measured on a 7-point Likert
scale (1, very unlikely to 7, very unlikely), that assess Facebook-
related jealousy. Sample items include ‘‘How likely are you to
become jealous after your partner has added an unknown
member of the opposite sex?’’ and ‘‘How likely are you to
monitor your partner’s activities on Facebook?’’
Other factors include general propensity toward jea-
lousy,15levels of trust,6,16self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-Esteem
scale, as used by Ellison et al.2), relational uncertainty,17and
commitment.18One item measured the amount of time par-
ticipants spent on Facebook. Participants were also asked to
provide demographic information and descriptive informa-
tion about their use and their partners’ use of Facebook, and
they were asked one open-ended question to allow them to
provide qualitative data about their experience of jealousy on
Participants in the current sample reported spending an
average of 38.93 minutes on Facebook each day (SD¼32.13)
and had between 25 and 1000 Facebook friends (M¼296.19,
SD¼173.04). The majority of participants (74.6%) were at
least somewhat likely to add previous romantic or sexual
partners as friends on Facebook, and 78.9% reported that
their partner has added previous romantic or sexual partners
as friends. Almost all of the participants in the current sample
(92.1%) reported that their partner was at least somewhat
likely to have Facebook friends who they do not know. Past
research has indicated that jealousy may be differentially
experienced based on gender,(eg,19)and such differences were
found in the current sample. Women, M¼40.57, SD¼26.76,
in our sample spent significantly more time on Facebook than
men, M¼29.83, SD¼23.73; t(305)¼?3.32, p<0.01, and
women, M¼3.29, SD¼1.24, scored significantly higher on
Facebook jealousy than men, M¼2.81, SD¼1.09; t(305)¼
?3.32, p<01. Therefore, gender was controlled for in the
We hypothesized that Facebook use uniquely contributes
to the experience of jealousy, and we therefore tested a model
of Facebook jealousy that took into account a variety of
personal and relationship factors known to be associated
with the general experience of jealousy. We tested our model
442MUISE ET AL.
using a hierarchical multiple regression analysis consistent
with the theoretical model that we outlined based on past
research into relational jealousy. Gender and trait jealousy
were entered into block 1, personality and relational factors
were entered in blocks 2 and 3 respectively, and Facebook use
was entered in block 4. As expected, we found that trait jea-
lousy was a significant predictor of Facebook jealousy, which,
along with gender, accounted for 46% of the variance. When
personality and relational factors were added to our model,
only trust significantly added to our prediction of Facebook
jealousy scores (for trust, b¼?2.03, p¼0.04; for all other
factors, b<0.07, p>0.16). The inclusion of the blocks 2 and 3,
the personality and relational factors, accounted for only 2%
of additional variance and therefore did not contribute sig-
nificantly to the model. Time spent on Facebook was a sig-
nificant predictor of Facebook jealousy (b¼2.59, p¼0.01).
While this variable added only 2% of variance to the pre-
diction model, it did uniquely predict scores on the Facebook
jealousy scale beyond gender, trait-based jealousy, and other
personality and relationship factors. This finding is notable
considering the predictive power of trait jealousy. The final
model explains 48% of the variance in Facebook jealousy.
While only a portion of the participants responded to our
open-ended question (68 participants), their answers pro-
vided some additional information about potential cues
regarding the process associated with Facebook jealousy. The
statements of these individuals were analyzed for themes
relating to the experience of jealousy on Facebook by the first
and second authors, and four themes emerged. An in-
dependent rater who was blind to the purpose of the study
coded the data using these four themes and demonstrated
high interrater reliability (Cohen’s k¼0.93). The first theme,
which we called accessibility of information (described by 19.1%
of participants) included statements about the increased
amount of information available through Facebook about the
relationship one’s partner has with other individuals. The
second theme, relationship jealousy (16.2%), explicitly linked
Facebook use to participants’ own or their partner’s experi-
ences of jealousy. The third theme, Facebook as an addiction
(10.3%), indicated participants’ difficulty in limiting the time
they spent on their partner’s Facebook page oron Facebook in
general. The final theme, lack of context (7.4%) consisted of
references to the ambiguous nature of Facebook and the role
of this ambiguity in potential negative consequences such as
For all of the positive aspects of the increased social con-
nection that Facebook enables, there may also be some costs
for those individuals involved in romantic and sexual
relationships. Our data showed a significant association
between time spent on Facebook and jealousy-related feelings
and behaviors experienced on Facebook. Is time spent on
Facebook increasing jealousy, or is the heightened level of
jealousy that may emerge as a result of the information found
on partners’ Facebook postings resulting in increased time on
Facebook? We argue that both options are inevitably inter-
twined and that the findings are most likely due to dual
causation. The qualitative feedback we collected provides
some preliminary support for this argument.
The open nature of Facebook gives people access to
information about their partner that would not otherwise be
accessible. As one participant reported, ‘‘It turns people into
nosey parkers…all of that personal information is totally
unnecessary, but no one can help themselves.’’ Moreover, the
information listed on one’s Facebook page may be interpreted
in a variety of ways given its frequent lack of context. As
some participants explained, ‘‘I have enough confidence in
her [his partner] to know my partner is faithful, yet I can’t
help but second-guess myself when someone posts on her
wall.…It can contribute to feelings of you not really ‘know-
ing’ your partner.’’ Ambiguous scenes involving a partner
and contact with past romantic and sexual partners are
among the common triggers of jealousy in romantic relation-
ships,13and these ambiguous scenes are a regular occurrence
on Facebook. Real or imagined negative situations invoke
feelings of jealousy, and participants felt the Facebook en-
vironment created these feelings and enhanced concerns
about the quality of their relationship. As one participant
noted, ‘‘It definitely invokes a false sense of jealousy.’’
Another participant explained that ‘‘I was already a bit jea-
lous and insecure, but I think that Facebook has definitely
made me much much much worse.’’
Our results suggest that Facebook may expose an in-
dividual to potentially jealousy-provoking information about
their partner, which creates a feedback loop whereby heigh-
tened jealousy leads to increased surveillance of a partner’s
Facebook page. Persistent surveillance results in further
exposure to jealousy-provoking information. For many, the
need for knowledge about their partner’s intent becomes
indispensable, and several participants specifically men-
tioned the word ‘‘addiction’’ in relation to their own Facebook
usage. One participant who had recently broken up with her
boyfriend stated, ‘‘It’s addictive.…I always find myself going
on there checking new pictures and screening them. I can’t
help it!’’ Our finding of a link between jealousy triggers on
Facebook and increased surveillance of a partner’s profile has
also been discussed in some popular media,4suggesting that
this phenomenon is not limited to the current sample. How-
ever, our study is the first to test this hypothesis and to
control for personality and social factors that may have con-
founded the results.
With the vast majority of our sample reporting that their
partners have unknown individuals and past romantic and
sexual partners as friends on Facebook, the potential for jea-
lousy in this environment is evident. The qualitative data we
collected indicates that participants recognize that increased
exposure to information on Facebook without proper context
can increase their experience of jealousy. What is perhaps
more puzzling is that despite this knowledge, many of these
same participants also engage in a high degree of personal
disclosure on Facebook.14These findings are consistent with
past research that college-aged students practice high self-
disclosure on Facebook,1suggesting that individuals may not
adequately recognize that their own information disclosure
may be a cause for concern for their partner. As a result,
personal disclosures may foster a vicious cycle whereby
a person’s acontextual disclosure on Facebook may only
increase the likelihood that one’s partner may also do the
JEALOUSY ON FACEBOOK443
same, thus increasing the likelihood of causing one’s own Download full-text
experience of jealousy.
This study provides evidence of a relationship between
Facebook use and the experience of jealousy in that context,
though further research is needed to better understand this
feedback loop because the nature of our data could not fully
explain this process. Future research must directly examine
the effects of various triggers on the experience of jealousy
and on the time individuals spend on Facebook. Ideally, this
research would directly assess the process by which time
spent on Facebook and the experience of jealousy on Face-
book are related. In addition, it would be interesting to learn
whether these same relationships hold true in samples of
adults who are outside of the university context. Unlike most
young undergraduate student relationships, adult relation-
ships are more likely to have developed before Facebook
became popular, and one could argue that partners in that
age group may be less well equipped to deal with the chal-
lenges that Facebook poses to relationships. In addition,
adults may have a longer past to uncover, with more old
friends and partners with whom to connect, thus potentially
exposing members of couples to a greater potential for jea-
lousy. One thing is sure: Facebook provides a superb forum
for the study of relational jealousy, and our study only serves
as a starting point.
The authors have no conflict of interest.
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Address correspondence to:
Department of Psychology
University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
444 MUISE ET AL.