ArticlePDF Available

The Couple Who Facebooks Together, Stays Together: Facebook Self-Presentation and Relationship Longevity Among College-Aged Dating Couples

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Drawing on public commitment theory, this research examined the association between Facebook self-presentations of coupledom and relationship longevity among college-aged dating partners. Using a longitudinal design and a path model analytic approach, this study shows that Facebook self-presentational cues (i.e., being listed as "in a relationship," posting dyadic photographs, writing on the partner's wall) were associated with an increase in relationship commitment for dating couples, which, in turn, increased their likelihood of remaining together after 6 months. Contrary to predictions, the number of mutual Friends and the number of posts written by partners on participants' walls were negatively related to relationship commitment. This study is the first to apply public commitment theory to an online romantic relationship context, and one of the few to examine the effects of Facebook on the state and fate of romantic relationships.
Content may be subject to copyright.
ORIGINAL ARTICLES
The Couple Who Facebooks Together, Stays Together:
Facebook Self-Presentation and Relationship Longevity
Among College-Aged Dating Couples
Catalina L. Toma, PhD, and Mina Choi, MS
Abstract
Drawing on public commitment theory, this research examined the association between Facebook self-presentations
of coupledom and relationship longevity among college-aged dating partners. Using a longitudinal design and a
path model analytic approach, this study shows that Facebook self-presentational cues (i.e., being listed as ‘‘in a
relationship,’’ posting dyadic photographs, writing on the partner’s wall) were associated with an increase in
relationship commitment for dating couples, which, in turn, increased their likelihood of remaining together
after 6 months. Contrary to predictions, the number of mutual Friends and the number of posts written by
partners on participants’ walls were negatively related to relationship commitment. This study is the first to
apply public commitment theory to an online romantic relationship context, and one of the few to examine the
effects of Facebook on the state and fate of romantic relationships.
Introduction
Relationship theorists have long noted that the success
of romantic relationships depends in large part on couples’
social environments. For instance, the longevity of romantic
relationships is affected by the extent to which friends and
family are aware of and approve of them.
1–3
In recent years, the
social environment inhabited by romantic couples has been
substantially altered by social network sites (SNSs). On Face-
book, the largest SNS, users typically reveal detailed infor-
mation about their romantic involvements
4
to audiences
consisting of hundreds of Friends.
5,a
Additionally, social norms
dictate that SNS communication is positive and affirming,
7
enabling users to attract support for their relationship-related
postings. How does this new social environment, characterized
by publicness and social validation, affect couples’ state (i.e.,
commitment) and fate (i.e., likelihood of staying together)?
This study addresses this question using public commitment
theory,
8
which focuses on the effects of public self-presentations
on individuals’ self-views. We focus on dating relationships
among college-aged adults because this demographic are at a
prime developmental stage for negotiating romantic rela-
tionships and are also heavy users of SNSs.
9
A public commitment framework for couples’
Facebook self-presentation
Self-presentation is the act of editing the self in order to
convey a desired image to an audience.
10,11
While meant to
influence others, self-presentation has the important side-
effect of influencing how self-presenters view themselves.
The intrapersonal outcomes of self-presentation are the
purview of public commitment theory,
8
which argues that
people come to view themselves in ways that are consis-
tent with their public claims. For example, after publicly
claiming to be extroverted, people believe themselves to be
more extroverted.
8,12
The shifting of the self-concept to
match public self-presentations is a largely unconscious
process known as internalization (in fact, the theory is
sometimes referred to as ‘‘identity shift’’
12,13
). Internaliza-
tion occurs because deeply engrained social norms pre-
scribe that people be who they claim to be. Therefore, public
statements psychologically obligate people to fulfill them.
Indeed, the mechanism behind internalization is similar to
that behind cognitive dissonance, whereby people change
their attitudes to match their behaviors,
14
or the behavior–
attitude consistency norm, whereby people feel pressured to
be consistent in their behaviors and expressed views.
15
In all
cases, there is a powerful urge to match private beliefs with
public behaviors.
Public commitment theory has received ample support in
the context of personality traits (e.g., extraversion, sociabil-
ity, emotional stability), with individuals claiming to possess
these traits in front of real or imagined audiences believing
themselves to actually possess them more than individu-
als who lacked an audience.
8,12,16–19
However, the literature
is limited in that it has only considered self-presentational
Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.
CYBERPSYCHOLOGY,BEHAVIOR,AND SOCIAL NETWORKING
Volume 18, Number 7, 2015
ªMary Ann Liebert, Inc.
DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2015.0060
367
claims related to personality traits and short-term effects,
with internalization measured immediately after the self-
presentation took place. Can the public commitment framework
be extended to self-presentations that pertain to romantic
relationships, and to long-term effects?
Facebook self-presentation and romantic commitment
We argue that it can. Public commitment is defined as
‘‘a pledging of self (a) to an action; (b) to a person, group, or
organization; or (c) to an idea.’’
8(p21)
Romantic coupledom
can be conceptualized both as a pledging of self to another
person, and to the idea of being in a relationship. As dis-
cussed, Facebook self-presentations tend to be highly public,
thus meeting the criterion for internalization. Further, they
are recordable and salient for long periods of time. Through
repeated exposure, internalization may become deeply roo-
ted and long lasting.
Several self-presentational elements on Facebook should
induce public commitment toward one’s romantic partner.
First, Facebook allows users to associate with romantic
partners by listing themselves as ‘‘in a relationship’’ and
linking to their partner’s profile. Relationship listing on Fa-
cebook is so meaningful for today’s dating couples that it has
received its own colloquial nomenclature, ‘‘going Facebook
official.’’
20
Research shows a connection between relation-
ship listing on Facebook and relationship functioning: More
committed and satisfied couples are more likely to declare
themselves ‘‘in a relationship.’
21,22
A second option for broadcasting one’s romantic in-
volvement on Facebook is via photographs depicting the
self-presenters with their partners. These dyadic photographs
are a potent display of merged identities, as they illustrate
joint activities and often affectionate behavior. The fre-
quency of posting dyadic photographs has been shown to
correlate with relationship satisfaction for both married and
dating couples.
23
Third, Facebook enables romantic partners to converse
publicly with one another by posting messages on their re-
spective walls. Focus groups indicate that public communi-
cation serves the purpose of affirming togetherness, with one
participant memorably stating that it is the ‘‘ultimate form of
PDA.cause everyone can see it.’’
22(p531)
Fourth, Facebook allows users to declare publicly which
events they attended, what interest groups they are affiliated
with (e.g., ‘‘Cat lovers’’), and what networks they belong to
(e.g., high schools, universities). When partners partake in
the same events, groups, and networks, they can be con-
ceptualized as having joint affiliations, an indicator of to-
getherness. Research in face-to-face settings shows that
participating in social activities together affirms romantic
partners’ coupledom by gaining the recognition of friends
and family.
3,24
Finally, Facebook allows users to accrue mutual Friends.
Research shows that closer and more stable romantic part-
ners have more friends in common, a situation referred to as
network embeddedness.
25
While couples may not be pur-
posefully accumulating Friends for self-presentational pur-
poses, this system-generated cue enables them to visualize
their own network embeddedness, and therefore may lead
them to understand themselves as part of a social unit, bound
together by common relations.
In sum, we propose that the frequency of posting the
above-mentioned self-presentational elements is associated
with an increase in individuals’ commitment toward their
romantic partners (H1). In turn, this increased commitment
should produce a stabilization of the relationship, with more
committed couples more likely to endure over time. Indeed,
the link between relationship commitment and relationship
duration is well established,
26–28
particularly among young
adults in dating relationships.
29,30
Therefore, we hypothesize
that relationship commitment will serve as a mediator be-
tween Facebook self-presentations of coupledom and rela-
tionship longevity (H2).
Method
Participants and procedure
Participants were 212 undergraduates at the University of
Wisconsin–Madison, who were currently involved in a
geographically close
b
dating relationship. Only heterosexual
students were invited to participate in a study of ‘‘romantic
relationships and media use.’’ Participants were recruited
through advertisements posted on the department of Com-
munication Arts’ subject pool Web site, and were compen-
sated with extra credit in their classes.
A longitudinal design was used, where Facebook self-
presentation was hypothesized to correlate with participants’
commitment to their partner measured during a lab ap-
pointment (time 1) and their likelihood of remaining together
6 months after the lab appointment (time 2).
At time 1, participants filled out a questionnaire with de-
mographic and relationship measures. Then, they were asked
to log into their Facebook profile and use the freely available
‘‘Friendship’’ application on themselves and their partner.
This application generates a joint profile for any pair of
Friends, on which it displays the Facebook information
shared by these two individuals (e.g., number of mutual
Friends, numbers of dyadic photographs). A research assis-
tant copied this information
c
into an Excel file, without
downloading the joint profile.
Thirty-two participants were unable to use the application
because they or their partners were not Facebook users, re-
ducing the sample size to 180 (78.3% women; M
age
=20.01
years, SD =1.92; 83.9% white, 12.8% Asian, 2.8% other).
The excluded participants did not differ from the rest of the
sample in terms of relationship longevity, t(164) =-1.28,
p=n.s., but reported lower relationship commitment,
t(206) =-2.16, p<0.05.
Six months later, participants were asked via e-mail
whether they and their romantic partners were still together.
Participants were reminded of the initials of the partner on
whom they previously reported. Eighty percent of the partici-
pants responded to the e-mail, a rate consistent with similar
studies.
32,33
There were no differences between participants
who responded and those who did not in terms of any of the
variables reported in this study.
Measures
Relationship commitment. This was measured using the
relationship commitment subscale of the investment model
scale
34
(7 items; e.g., ‘‘I am committed to maintaining my
relationship with my partner,’’ ‘‘I feel very attached to our
368 TOMA AND CHOI
relationship—very strongly linked to my partner’’). Items
were rated on a scale from 1=‘‘not at all’’ to 7 =‘‘extreme-
ly.’’ High reliability was achieved (a=0.85), and a confir-
matory factor analysis revealed a one-factor structure. The
relationship commitment score was normally distributed.
Relationship longevity. This was operationalized as
whether the relationship endured until the 6 month check-
point (yes/no). A total of 76.4% of the participants were still
together with their partners, while 23.6% had broken up, a
rate consistent with prior research.
35
Facebook cues. The following cues generated by the
‘‘Friendship’’ application were recorded: (a) whether par-
ticipants were listed as ‘‘in a relationship’’ with their ro-
mantic partners
d
; (b) the number of photographs in which
both participants and their partners were tagged; (c) the
number of comments posted by participants on partners’ wall
during the last month (i.e., participant-initiated wall posts);
(d) the number of comments posted by partners on partici-
pants’ wall during the last month (i.e., partner-initiated wall
posts); (e) the number of mutual Friends; and (f) the total
number of networks (e.g., high schools, universities), groups,
and events in which both partners were enrolled (i.e., joint
affiliations). Descriptive statistics for these variables are
presented in Table 1.
Covariates. These included gender (because women’s
mate selectivity is different from men’s in ways that may
affect relationship longevity),
36
age (because younger peo-
ple’s relationships tend to be shorter, less committed, and
more likely to break-up
37
), and the length of the romantic
relationship (M=15.22 months, SD =14.76; because rela-
tionships that have already stood the test of time may have a
higher chance of endurance).
Results
Analytic approach
The hypotheses were tested through a path analysis con-
ducted with the Lavaan package in R.
38
Since the endoge-
nous variable in the model (i.e., relationship longevity) was
binary, we used the maximum likelihood estimator with ro-
bust standard errors (MLR), which can handle non-normal
data.
38
A test of joint significance
39
was used to examine the
mediating effect of relationship commitment. See Table 2
for a partial correlation matrix between all variables, after
controlling for gender, age, and the length of the romantic
relationship.
Hypotheses testing
Our primary goal was to examine whether Facebook self-
presentation of coupledom increased relationship longevity
among college-aged dating couples by enhancing relation-
ship commitment. To test this prediction, a path model was
generated with the hypothesized Facebook cues entered as
exogenous variables, relationship longevity as an endoge-
nous variable, and relationship commitment as a mediator
(see Fig. 1). Gender, age, and relationship length were en-
tered as covariates. Based on Kline’s
40
cutoff criteria, the
model demonstrated excellent fit with the data—v
2
(6) =
4.07, p=0.67; RMSEA =0.00 [90% confidence interval
0.00–0.09]; CFI =1.00; GFI =0.97; TLI =1.15; WRMR =
0.43—and explained 35.7% of the variance in the endoge-
nous variable, relationship longevity.
e
The following Facebook cues were positively associated
with relationship commitment: relationship listing, number
of dyadic photographs, and number of participant-initiated
wall posts. Contrary to expectations, the number of mutual
Friends and of partner-initiated wall posts were negatively
associated with relationship commitment. Joint affiliations
were not significantly related to relationship commitment.
H1 was therefore partially supported.
Consider now the mediational role of relationship com-
mitment between Facebook self-presentation and relation-
ship longevity. The preceding analyses demonstrate that
some Facebook cues were related to relationship commit-
ment. Further, relationship commitment had a direct and
Table 1. Means and Standard Deviations for All
the Continuous Variables in the Path Model
MSD
Relational commitment* 5.69 1.02
Number of dyadic photographs 50.06 82.99
Number of participant-initiated wall posts 1.05 2.07
Number of partner-initiated wall posts 0.67 1.29
Number of joint affiliations 7.65 18.70
Number of mutual Friends 126.67 146.92
*Measured on a scale from 1 =‘‘not at all committed’’ to
7=‘‘extremely committed.’
Table 2. Partial Correlation Matrix for the Variables Used in the Path Model
After Controlling for the Covariates (N=144)
1 2 3 456 78
1. Relationship listed on Facebook
2. Number of dyadic photographs 0.22*
3. Number of participant-initiated wall posts 0.21* 0.33***
4. Number of partner-initiated wall posts 0.15* 0.61*** 0.61***
5. Number of joint affiliations 0.07 0.15 -0.09 0.08 —
6. Number of mutual Friends -0.16 0.06 -0.05 -0.05 0.16
7. Relationship commitment 0.37*** 0.26** 0.20* 0.11 0.15 -0.15 —
8. Relationship longevity 0.27** 0.12 0.13 0.05 0.20* -0.01 0.43*** —
*p <0.05; **p<0.01; ***p <0.001.
SELF-PRESENTATION OF COUPLEDOM ON FACEBOOK 369
positive association with relationship longevity. For a one-
unit increase in the relationship commitment score, the odds
of the couple staying together after 6 months increased by
50%. According to the test of joint significance,
39
H2 was
supported. None of the covariates reached statistical signif-
icance. See Figure 1 for all the path coefficients in the model.
Despite our theoretical predictions that Facebook self-
presentation affects relationship commitment, it is possible
that it reflects couples’ pre-existing commitment. That is,
couples who are more committed are more likely to create
the types of self-presentations examined here. To investigate
this competing possibility, we generated a path model with
relationship commitment as the exogenous variable, rela-
tionship longevity as an endogenous variable, and Facebook
cues as mediating variables. Following Kline’s
40
cutoff cri-
teria, this alternative model showed an unsatisfactory fit with
the data—v
2
(16) =639.58, p=0.00; RMSEA =0.53 [90%
confidence interval 0.43–0.50]; CFI =0.54; TLI =0.20;
WRMR =03.95. Therefore, we conclude that the data are
consistent with the claim that Facebook self-presentation
affects, rather than is affected by, relationship commitment
among college-aged dating couples.
Discussion
Romantic relationships do not exist in isolation. Rather,
they are affected by the social context in which they are
embedded. In recent years, Facebook has changed this social
context by, among others, allowing couples to make public
claims about their relationship. This study investigated how
these public self-presentations of coupledom shaped indi-
viduals’ commitment toward their romantic partners, as well
as the fate of the relationship.
Results show that the public association between the self
and a romantic partner generally boosted Facebook users’
relationship commitment, which, in turn, increased their
likelihood of staying together after 6 months. The more
participants listed themselves as ‘‘in a relationship’’ with
their partners, shared dyadic photographs, and wrote mes-
sages on their partners wall, the more commitment they
experienced. Consistent with public commitment theory,
these publicly posted cues likely induced participants to
perceive themselves as part of a romantic unit, thus ce-
menting the relationship.
However, several self-presentational elements did not op-
erate in the predicted way. First, the number of mutual Friends
was negatively associated with relationship commitment. This
could be the case because more mutual Friends signal a larger
social network and, thus, the availability of many alternative
romantic partners. Indeed, the investment model of relation-
ships
41,42
proposes that the more alternative partners are
available, the less committed individuals feel toward their
existing partners. Second, posts written by partners on par-
ticipants’ wall diminished relationship commitment, unlike
posts written by participants on their partners wall. This
double standard could occur because participants interpret
partners’ wall posts as a sign of possessiveness, or over-
sharing, but their own as a sign of commitment. Finally, joint
affiliations were not associated with relationship commitment.
These cues are not displayed straightforwardly on Facebook
profiles. For instance, in order to determine whether both
participant and his/her partner attended the same events, it is
necessary to click on each event and scroll through the list of
attendees. Due to their decreased visibility, these cues may not
exercise psychological effects. Future research is required to
test these possibilities fully.
Despite these unexpected findings, the general pattern of
results advances public commitment theory in meaningful
ways. The present study represents the first application of
this theory to romantic self-presentations, thus extending its
boundaries to a new and important self-presentational do-
main. It is also the first to demonstrate the temporal endur-
ance of public commitment effects.
This study also advances the literature on the effects of
Facebook on romance by suggesting a causal order of the
variables under scrutiny. While previous literature
20–23
has
FIG. 1. Path coefficients for all
the hypothesized relationships in
the model.
+
p<0.10; *p <0.05;
**p<0.01; ***p <0.001.
370 TOMA AND CHOI
used correlational or qualitative methods to suggest that
Facebook activity reflects relationship characteristics (e.g.,
more committed couples are more likely to list themselves as
‘‘in a relationship’’), this is the first study to indicate that
Facebook activity might also affect relationship character-
istics. In fact, the path analysis suggests it is more likely that
Facebook self-presentation was associated with changes in
the way partners experienced their romantic relationships,
rather than it merely reflected this experience.
Limitations and future research
Several limitations need to be acknowledged. First, this
study’s focus was on premarital, dating relationships among
heterosexual college-aged adults. Future research should
examine individuals across life stages and relationship types.
Second, self-presentation is only one aspect of Facebook use
in the context of romantic relationships, along with partner
monitoring
43
and the maintenance of back-burner relation-
ships,
44
for instance. How do self-presentations of couple-
dom fit into this larger ecology of Facebook use? What is the
net effect of these different aspects of Facebook use on ro-
mantic commitment and longevity? Third, it bears noting
that while longitudinal designs are superior to cross-sectional
surveys in drawing conclusions about causality, they still do
not provide definitive evidence. Future research employing
an experimental approach is needed.
Conclusion
While originally intended to connect people with their
friend networks, Facebook has become an important space
for the negotiation of romantic relationships. Indeed, the
present research suggests that Facebook use may have an
impact on the very existence of dating relationships.
Notes
a. Following Ellison and boyd’s
6
suggestion, we capita-
lize the word ‘‘friends’’ to denote social connections
on Facebook. Facebook Friends include close and dis-
tant friends, family members, acquaintances, and even
strangers.
b. Long-distance relationship partners were excluded
from this study because a large body of research shows
that they use and are affected by the media differently
than geographically close partners.
31
c. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the authors’
institution only allowed the numeric information pro-
duced by the ‘‘Friendship’’ application to be recorded
(e.g., number of mutual Friends, number of photos),
but did not grant permission to record the content of
the messages exchanged by the partners, or to save
their photographs. This information could therefore not
be examined in the present study.
d. In addition to listing themselves as ‘‘in a relationship’
with their partners, Facebook users also have the op-
tion of choosing other romantic relationship listings,
such as ‘‘in an open relationship’’ or ‘‘it’s complicat-
ed.’’ Since fewer than 5% of our sample chose these
other options, they were not considered in our model.
e. We also ran a structural equation model (SEM) with
relationship commitment as a latent variable and ob-
tained similar results—v
2
(5) =2.91, p=0.71; RMSEA =
0.00 [90% confidence interval 0.00–0.07); CFI =1.00;
GFI =0.99; TLI =1.13; WRMR =0.40. The model
explained 29.5% of the variance in the endogenous
variable, relationship longevity. We decided to report
the path model, rather than the SEM, because our
sample size was below that recommended for running
SEM.
40
Acknowledgments
The authors are grateful to Amelia Gordon and Samantha
Hersil for their help with data collection, and to the Hamel
Family Foundation for their financial assistance.
Author Disclosure Statement
No competing financial interests exist.
References
1. Baxter LA, Widenmann S. Revealing and not revealing the
status of romantic relationships to social networks. Journal
of Social & Personal Relationships 1993; 10:321–337.
2. Felmlee D, Sprecher S, Bassin E. The dissolution of intimate
relationships: a hazard model. Social Psychology Quarterly
1990; 53:13–30.
3. Lewis RA. Social reaction and the formation of dyads: an
interactionist approach to mate selection. Sociometry 1973;
36:409–418.
4. Mod GBB. Reading romance: the impact Facebook rituals
can have on a romantic relationship. Journal of Compara-
tive Research in Anthropology & Sociology 2010; 1:61–77.
5. Manago AM, Taylor T, Greenfield PM. Me and my 400
friends: the anatomy of college students’ Facebook net-
works, their communication patterns, and well-being. De-
velopmental Psychology 2012; 48:369–380.
6. Ellison NB, boyd dm. (2013) Sociality through social net-
work sites. In Dutton WH, eds. The Oxford handbook of
Internet studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 151–
172.
7. Toma CL, Hancock JT. Self-affirmation underlies Face-
book use. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 2013;
39:321–331.
8. Schlenker BR, Dlugolecki DW, Doherty K. The impact of
self-presentations on self-appraisals and behavior: the power
of public commitment. Personality & Social Psychology
Bulletin 1994; 20:20–33.
9. Kalpidou M, Costin D, Morris J. The relationship between
Facebook and the well-being of undergraduate college
students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, & Social Network-
ing 2011; 14:183–189.
10. Goffman E. (1959) The presentation of self in everyday life.
New York: Sage.
11. Schlenker BR. (1980) Impression management: the self-
concept, social identity, and interpersonal relations. Mon-
terey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
12. Gonzales AL, Hancock JT. Identity shift in computer-
mediated environments. Media Psychology 2008; 11:167–185.
13. Walther JB, Liang YJ, DeAndrea DC, et al. The effect of
feedback on identity shift in computer-mediated commu-
nication. Media Psychology 2011; 14:1–26.
14. Festinger L. (1962) A theory of cognitive dissonance. Vol.
2. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press.
SELF-PRESENTATION OF COUPLEDOM ON FACEBOOK 371
15. Fazio RH, Zanna MP. Direct experience and attitude-
behavior consistency. Advances in Experimental Social
Psychology 1981; 14:161–202.
16. Kelly AE, Rodriguez RR. Publicly committing oneself to
an identity. Basic & Applied Social Psychology 2006;
28:185–191.
17. Schlenker BR, Trudeau JV. Impact of self-presentations on
private self-beliefs: effects of prior self-beliefs and misat-
tribution. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 1990;
58:22–32.
18. Schlenker BR, Weigold MF. Self-consciousness and self-
presentation: being autonomous versus appearing autono-
mous. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 1990; 59:
820–828.
19. Tice DM. Self-concept change and self-presentation: the
looking glass self is also a magnifying glass. Journal of
Personality & Social Psychology 1992; 63:435–451.
20. Fox J, Warber KM. Romantic relationship development in
the age of Facebook: an exploratory study of emerging adults’
perceptions, motives, and behaviors. Cyberpsychology,
Behavior, & Social Networking 2013; 16:3–7.
21. Papp LM, Danielewicz J, Cayemberg C. ‘‘Are we Face-
book official?’’: implications of dating partners’ Facebook
use and profiles for intimate relationship satisfaction. Cy-
berpsychology, Behavior, & Social Networking 2012; 15:
85–90.
22. Fox J, Osborn JL, Warber KM. Relational dialectics
and social networking sites: the role of Facebook in ro-
mantic relationship escalation, maintenance, conflict,
and dissolution. Computers in Human Behavior 2014; 35:
527–534.
23. Saslow LR, Muise A, Impett EA, et al. Can you see how
happy we are? Facebook images and relationship satisfac-
tion. Social Psychological & Personality Science 2013;
4:411–418.
24. Krain M. A definition of dyadic boundaries and an empirical
study of boundary establishment in courtship. International
Journal of Sociology of the Family 1977; 7:107–123.
25. Milardo RM. Friendship networks in developing relation-
ships: converging and diverging social environments. So-
cial Psychology Quarterly 1982; 45:162–172.
26. Adams JM, Jones WH. (1999) Handbook of interpersonal
commitment and relationship stability. New York: Springer.
27. Bui KVT, Peplau LA, Hill CT. Testing the Rusbult model
of relationship commitment and stability in a 15-year study
of heterosexual couples. Personality & Social Psychology
Bulletin 1996; 22:1244–1257.
28. Sprecher S. Sexual satisfaction in premarital relationships:
associations with satisfaction, love, commitment, and sta-
bility. Journal of Sex Research 2002; 39:190–196.
29. Hill CT, Rubin Z, Peplau LA. Breakups before marriage:
the end of 103 affairs. Journal of Social Issues 1976; 32:
147–168.
30. Simpson JA. The dissolution of romantic relationships:
factors involved in relationship stability and emotional
distress. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 1987;
53:683–692.
31. Jiang L, Hancock JT. Absence makes the communication
grow fonder: geographic separation, interpersonal media,
and intimacy in dating relationships. Journal of Commu-
nication 2013; 63:556–577.
32. Davila J, Steinberg SJ, Kachadourian L, et al. Romantic
involvement and depressive symptoms in early and late
adolescence: the role of a preoccupied relational style.
Personal Relationships 2004; 11:161–178.
33. Sacher JA, Fine MA. Predicting relationship status and
satisfaction after six months among dating couples. Journal
of Marriage & the Family 1996; 58:21–32.
34. Rusbult CE, Martz JM, Agnew CR. The investment model
scale: measuring commitment level, satisfaction level,
quality of alternatives, and investment size. Personal Re-
lationships 1998; 5:357–387.
35. Felmlee DH. No couple is an island: a social network per-
spective on dyadic stability. Social Forces 2001; 79:1259–
1287.
36. Fisman R, Iyengar SS, Kamenica E, et al. Gender differences
in mate selection: evidence from a speed dating experiment.
The Quarterly Journal of Economics 2006; 121:673–697.
37. Connolly J. McIsaac C. (2011) Romantic relationships in
adolescence. In Underwood MK, Rosen LH, eds. Social
development: relationships in infancy, childhood, and ad-
olescence. New York: Guilford Press, pp. 180–203.
38. Rosseel Y. Lavaan: an R package for structural equation
modeling. Journal of Statistical Software 2012; 48:1–36.
39. Cohen J, Cohen P. (1983) Applied multiple regression/
correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences. 2nd ed.
Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
40. Kline RB. (2011) Principles and practice of structural
equation modeling. New York: Guilford Press.
41. Rusbult CE. A longitudinal test of the investment model:
the development (and deterioration) of satisfaction and
commitment in heterosexual involvements. Journal of
Personality & Social Psychology 1983; 45:101–117.
42. Rusbult CE. Commitment and satisfaction in romantic as-
sociations: a test of the investment model. Journal of Ex-
perimental Social Psychology 1980; 16:172–186.
43. Muise A, Christofides E, Desmarais S. More information
than you ever wanted: does Facebook bring out the green-
eyed monster of jealousy? CyberPsychology & Behavior
2009; 12:441–444.
44. Dibble JL, Drouin M. Using modern technology to keep in
touch with back burners: an investment model analysis.
Computers in Human Behavior 2014; 34:96–100.
Address correspondence to:
Dr. Catalina L. Toma
Department of Communication Arts
University of Wisconsin–Madison
6144 Vilas Hall
821 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
E-mail: ctoma@wisc.edu
372 TOMA AND CHOI
CopyrightofCyberPsychology,Behavior&SocialNetworkingisthepropertyofMaryAnn
Liebert,Inc.anditscontentmaynotbecopiedoremailedtomultiplesitesorpostedtoa
listservwithoutthecopyrightholder'sexpresswrittenpermission.However,usersmayprint,
download,oremailarticlesforindividualuse.
... Relationships are an important part of identity (Emery et al., 2021), which suggests that people should want to portray them in a positive light. The public nature of SNSs may further affect how people choose to present their relationships on Instagram (Toma & Choi, 2015), where the images they share are viewable by their partner as well as a larger network of followers. Because these relationship presentations occur in front of their peers, individuals may internalize the joint couple identity they convey in their posts. ...
... Because these relationship presentations occur in front of their peers, individuals may internalize the joint couple identity they convey in their posts. This points to Instagram as a valuable context for examining how relationships affect-and are affected by-couples' usage of SNSs (Rus & Tiemensma, 2017;Toma & Choi, 2015). Rusbult's (1980Rusbult's ( , 1983 investment model is a theory about relationship maintenance that builds on and extends the principles of interdependence theory (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978;Thibaut & Kelley, 1959) to include the concept of investments. ...
... Existing research, primarily in the context of Instagram's parent company, Facebook, has also established a link between the quality and visibility of relationships on SNSs. Toma and Choi (2015) showed that people who listed themselves as in a relationship reported greater commitment than those who did not, people who shared more couple pictures reported greater commitment than those who shared fewer, and people who posted more frequently on their dating partner's Facebook wall reported greater commitment than those who posted less. However, in contrast to the authors' predictions, people who were the recipients of more frequent posts from their dating partner on their own Facebook wall and those who shared more mutual friends with their dating partner reported lower commitment relative to others. ...
Article
What do couples’ activities and behaviors on Instagram reveal about the quality of their relationships? To answer this question, we surveyed couples ( N = 178) about their perceptions of their relationships and analyzed 3,270 of their recent Instagram posts. Actor and partner effects were found between relational quality and engagement with the relationship on Instagram (i.e., the number of couple pictures and partner-initiated likes and comments). There were also actor effects of attention to Instagram alternatives on the perceived quality and actual pursuit of alternative partners, as well as a partner effect on alternative quality. The findings contribute to extending the investment model to the digital age and have methodological implications for understanding relationship dynamics on visual social network sites.
... Relational activity on Facebook has many documented benefits. Studies suggest that changing status to "in a relationship," posting joint pictures of the couple, exchanging messages on each other's walls, accumulating shared friends, and belonging to shared groups and events are associated with a stronger commitment to the relationship and with its longevity (Emery et al., 2014(Emery et al., , 2015Toma & Choi, 2015). More generally, social media use may be beneficial for relationship development (Fox & Anderegg, 2014) and for successful coping with relational dissolution (LeFebvre et al., 2015). ...
... Alternatively, it suggests that each of Knapp's offline stages has some facets that manifest online, and that these online manifestations can shape the relational dynamics as a whole, including the offline practices that remain seemingly detached from social media. In other words, social media affordances allow for online relational practices, which have been found to shape offline relationships, from influencing levels of commitment (Toma & Choi, 2015) to determining relationship satisfaction (Saslow et al., 2012). For example, we have shown that Facebook's editability enables partners to erase textual and visual information about their previous partners, thus helping them move forward as part of the establishment stage. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study draws on Knapp’s offline relationship development model to examine how people construct romantic relationships on social media, with particular attention to the role of affordances in this process. Based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 30 relational partners, we show that Knapp’s five traditional stages of relationship construction merge online into three because of social media affordances, including searchability, visibility, anonymity, persistence, storage, and editability. These affordances allow users to search and obtain information about potential partners quickly, conveniently, and anonymously before, during, and after the first interaction. They also enable users to initiate or avoid romantic interactions relatively easily, present shared memories, build a sense of togetherness, and edit or erase online content about previous partners. The findings suggest that most participants perceived Facebook, more than Instagram, as a platform of choice for relationship construction. Addressing the interplay between social media affordances, online relational practices, and offline relationship dynamics, the study shows that offline and online spaces are highly interrelated in terms of interinfluence. Therefore, we argue that the merger of stages is not merely a technical rearrangement but an indication of the fundamental role that online practices play in people’s offline realities, including romantic relationships.
... Likewise, posting photos with one's romantic partner has been linked to increased relationship satisfaction and commitment (Saslow et al., 2013). Toma and Choi (2015) reported that public displays of relationship commitment on social media strengthened actual relationship commitment and stability, at least in the short term. Specifically, posting photos with their partner, making their relationship "Facebook official" by displaying their relationship status on their profile, and posting more comments or images on their partner's profile increased feelings of commitment to the relationship. ...
... Although there are a number of studies on social media behavior between romantic partners, the majority of these studies focus specifically on social media behavior within the established relationship (Abbasi, 2018;Fox et al., 2014;Toma & Choi, 2015). However, digitally connecting with a potential partner often precedes dating (Gesselman et al., 2019), and the ubiquity of both social media and online dating apps has likely created an environment in which digital spaces facilitate romantic and sexual connections, especially among young adults (Anderson et al., 2020;Rus & Tiemensma, 2017). ...
Article
According to Rusbult's (1980) investment model, relationships are built and maintained through continual investment in one partner over potential alternative partners. Social media have continued to become more integrated into people's personal lives, with romantic relationship processes often unfolding in this new landscape. A large body of extant literature has explored how social media influence ongoing romantic relationships, but less is known about how social media facilitate relationship transitions (i.e., initiation, dissolution) and associated investment behaviors. In a large and diverse sample (N = 1521), we examine young adults' (18–29 years) social media investment behaviors around the beginnings and ends of their relationships, with a particular focus on how gender, age, and sexual orientation influence behaviors such as posting and removing of images with partners, following and un-following partners and members of partners' social networks, direct messaging, and commenting on partners' posts. Our results suggest that men and sexual minorities more often engage in investment behaviors earlier in the relationship and after relationship dissolution. However, women and sexual minorities more often engage in disinvestment behaviors after dissolution, including removing traces of an ex-partner from one's page and blocking them on social media entirely. Our results provide further understanding of how young American adults are enacting each relationship stage on social media and how the intersection of social media and romantic relationships differs by demographic factors.
... Participants had the choice of answering the questionnaires in the two official languages of Canada; most of them answered the questionnaires in French, while the remainder of the sample answered them in English. Then, participants were asked to log into their Facebook profile and use the freely available Friendship application on themselves and their partner (Toma & Choi, 2015). This application produces a conjoint profile for any pair of Facebook friends, on which it shows the Facebook information shared by these two persons. ...
... Transient relationship visibility. The following relationship-oriented Facebook behaviors, generated by the Friendship application and covering the last 3 months, were recorded: 1) the number of photographs posted by each participant in which the partner was present, 2) the number of comments initiated by each participant concerning the partner (on his or her wall or on the partner's wall), and 3) the number of times each participant tagged his or her partner (on his or her wall or on the partner's wall; Cole et al., 2018;Toma & Choi, 2015). It is important to note that transient relationship visibility measures behaviors initiated by each partner separately. ...
Article
Full-text available
The purpose of this paper was to document the use of social media in romantic relationships. More specifically, we examined whether the information that people desired to share (i.e., desired relationship visibility) and shared in practice (i.e., actual relationship visibility) about their romantic relationships on Facebook was predicted by their level of relational commitment. A sample of 139 couples, users of Facebook, aged 17 to 30 years, participated in the study. Participants completed questionnaires and used the Friendship application on Facebook (which gathered data directly from their Facebook accounts). The mediating role of desired relationship visibility in the link between relational commitment and actual relationship visibility on Facebook (i.e., declared relationship status and transient relationship visibility) was investigated using path analyses for dyadic data. Results of actor-partner interdependence mediation model analyses confirmed that women’s relational commitment was positively associated with their desired relationship visibility on Facebook. Men’s and women’s desired relationship visibility were, in turn, associated with their own and their partner’s declared relationship status and their own transient relationship visibility on Facebook. Our results provided evidence of the dyadic nature of Facebook self-presentations of coupledom.
... As such, Facebook provides a myriad of opportunities for its users to re-socialize and reconnect with their old acquaintances, as well as to maintain existing networks (e.g., Boyd & Ellison, 2007;Chennamaneni & Taneja, 2015;Johnston, Chen, & Hauman, 2013a;Johnston, Tanner, Lalla, & Kawalski, 2013b;Joinson, 2008). As self-disclosure on SNSs has become commonplace, scholars are closely examining the underlying factors which contribute to online self-disclosure (e.g., Lian, Sun, Yang, & Zhou, 2018;Lin, Liu, Niu, & Longobardi, 2020;Toma & Choi, 2015;Twomey & O'Reilly, 2017;Walther, 2018). ...
Article
As privacy concern is proven to be a pivotal thought that determines online self-disclosure, the current study examined the simultaneous influence of the antecedents of privacy concern. Specifically, this study focused on the nature of information (i.e., personal involvement) and the diversity of recipients (i.e., audience representation) in influencing individuals’ cognitive processes pertinent to privacy concerns on Facebook. We conducted an experiment and a total of 241 young adults participated in the study. The results suggested that information that was highly involved with oneself would trigger extended thought elaboration related to privacy. However, surprisingly, influence from audience representation in the network was revealed to be minimal. The study underscores the self-serving purpose of privacy concern online, such that users would primarily focus on considerations surrounding themselves. The results of the current study highlight the importance of self-concerns when users are making sense of their decisions pertinent to self-disclosure on SNSs. Future directions are discussed.
... Online couple visibility was found to positively correlate with relational satisfaction (Emery et al., 2015;Papp et al., 2012) and with the overall relationship quality (Steers et al., 2016). Becoming FBO led to high levels of closeness (Castañeda et al., 2015;Saslow et al., 2013), love (Sabiniewicz et al., 2017), intimacy and support (Sherrell & Lambie, 2016), high commitment (Castañeda et al., 2015), relationship longevity (Toma & Choi, 2015), and high level of communication . Moreover, online couple visibility increased relationship satisfaction, commitment, and investment (Lane et al., 2016). ...
Article
Facebook has been identified as one of the most influential social network site (SNS) in the formation, maintenance and interruption of romantic relationships. Over the last decade, several studies have been carried out on Facebook and romantic relationships; however, there is still lack of evidence on how the reciprocal perceptions of partners’ behaviours on Facebook relate with couple relationship quality. This study aimed to fill this gap examing whether and to what extent participants’ surveillance and visibility behaviour related with the perception of their partner’s surveillance and visibility behaviour, and to what extent this perception related with both romantic jealousy and relationship quality. A sample of 635 heterosexual women having a romantic relationship participated in a study, which consisted of answering an online questionnaire with items on both the participants’ and their partner’s online behaviour. Path analyses were used for testing the hypotheses. Results showed that Facebook supported behaviours that can affect the quality of romantic relationship. Contrary to what expected, both online surveillance and couple visibility positively related with romantic jealousy, which in turn mediated the relation between surveillance and relationship quality, thereby worsening the participants’ perception of couple relationship quality.
... Цим самим вони демонструють серйозність своїх намірів і важливість романтичних стосунків. Існують дані про те, що особи, які розміщують фотографії, що містять зображення романтичного партнера в соціальних мережах, повідомляють про більшу задоволеність стосунками [45], можливо через те, що ці фотографії представлені публічному доступу. ...
Article
Full-text available
The active use of social media can potentially jeopardize the quality of romantic relationships. The present study contributes to the existing research body investigating the connection between social media use and relationship satisfaction, by focusing on the users’ social media activity, their relationship visibility, relationship satisfaction and the different types of intimacy. We conducted a web-based data collection where participants (n 418) completed various types of questionnaires, namely the Social Media Use Integration Scale (SMUIS) (Jenkins-Guarnieri, 2013), the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) (Diener, 1985), the Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS) (Hendrick, 1988), Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationships (PAIR) (Schaefer & Olson, 1981), and an additional questionnaire created to study the visibility of romantic relationships on social media. To analyze the collected data, first a correlation analysis was conducted. The findings show that there is a negative correlation between social media activity and romantic relationship satisfaction. Besides, social media activity is negatively associated with emotional, intellectual, recreational and social intimacy. No negative correlation has been found regarding social media activity and sexual intimacy. The correlation analysis also indicates that the users’ visibility on social networks is negatively associated with relationship satisfaction and with all types of intimacy, predominantly with social and recreational intimacy. In the second part of the study, a series of moderated regression analysis were carried out. These analyses have shown that social media activity does not moderate the association between romantic relationships’ visibility on social media and relationship satisfaction.
... Additionally, results from a 14-day daily experience study revealed that individuals were more likely to share relationship-related information on Facebook on days where they felt more satisfied within their relationship. Toma and Choi (2015) examined how different aspects of a Facebook profile were related to relationship commitment and longevity. Cross-sectional analyses revealed that number of photographs with partner, participant-initiated posts on partner's wall, and having relationship status as "in a relationship" were all significantly positively associated with relationship commitment. ...
Article
Full-text available
Social media has been extensively researched, and its impact on well-being is becoming more clear. What is less clear, however, is the role of social media on romantic relationships, with the few existing studies finding mixed results. In an attempt to reconcile these discrepancies, the current study explored types of social media use (i.e., active use and passive use) as moderators between frequency of social media use and relationship health (i.e., relationship satisfaction and commitment). Participants were 432 adults in a romantic relationship for at least three months. Results showed that women who passively use social media at moderate to high levels exhibited negative associations between hours per day of social media use and relationship satisfaction, and hours per day of social media use and commitment. On the other hand, active use may ameliorate the negative association between hours per day of social media use and relationship health for both women and men. Specifically, men and women reporting low levels of active use exhibited a stronger negative association between hours per day of social media use and relationship health than those who reported moderate levels of active use. Additionally, there was no association between hours per day of social media use and relationship health for men and women reporting high levels of active use. Implications of these findings are discussed, as well as future directions based on these findings.
... First, from the perceiver's perspective, this work revealed that a dyadic photo and a partnered relationship status in the profile were interpreted as evidence of relationship commitment. Previous literature has demonstrated that a dyadic profile picture, a partnered relationship status, and tagging a partner are preferred and posted by individuals with high levels of relationship commitment(Emery et al., 2014;Toma & Choi, 2015). Hence, there is some correspondence in the meaning of these cues and partners' understanding of them. ...
Article
Full-text available
Facebook is a prevalent SNS platform used to express satisfaction in a romantic relationship. However, specific functions of Facebook that foster relationship satisfaction and the underlying mechanism of how the Facebook usage is perceived by a partner require further investigation. Relationship awareness, or paying attention to one’s romantic relationship and interaction patterns within a romantic relationship, may be a key determinant of satisfaction in a romantic relationship between Facebook users. Past research focused on the effect of cues that signal relationship awareness to one’s partner during face-to-face interactions. Extending the existing literature, we focused on how a partner perceives relationship awareness cues expressed on Facebook. We found a positive impact of different relationship awareness cues on Facebook on relationship satisfaction and a mediating role of the perception of a partner’s commitment. When imagining a partner’s Facebook page that showed faithful acts such as uploading a dyadic photo and removing a personal photo, participants expected high commitment from a partner, which, in turn, predicted high relationship satisfaction. Our findings offer specific ways to communicate with a romantic partner through Facebook to foster satisfaction in a relationship. We also discuss the importance of highlighting online communication as behavioral cues.
Chapter
Full-text available
The chapter discusses the role of the manner of attitude formation. It focuses on the development of an attitude through direct behavioral experience with the attitude object and examines whether such attitudes better predict subsequent behavior than attitudes formed without behavioral experience. The chapter provides an overview of the attitude-behavior consistency problem and describes the effect of the manner of attitude formation through the “housing” study, the “puzzle” experiment, and the “subject pool” study. The prior-to-later behavior relation is also discussed in the chapter, wherein it has described the self-perception of past religious behaviors, attitudes and self-reports of subsequent behavior, an individual difference perspective, and a partial correlation analysis. The chapter discusses attitudinal qualities—namely, confidence and clarity, the persistence of the attitude, and resistance to attack. The reasons for the differential strength are also explored in the chapter—namely, the amount of information available, information processing, and attitude accessibility. The chapter briefly describes the attitude-behavior relationship, personality traits, and behavior.
Article
Used a longitudinal study of heterosexual dating relationships to test investment model predictions regarding the process by which satisfaction and commitment develop (or deteriorate) over time. Initially, 17 male and 17 female undergraduates, each of whom was involved in a heterosexual relationship of 0-8 wks duration, participated. Four Ss dropped out, and 10 Ss' relationships ended. Questionnaires were completed by Ss every 17 days. Increases over time in rewards led to corresponding increases in satisfaction, whereas variations in costs did not significantly affect satisfaction. Commitment increased because of increases in satisfaction, declines in the quality of available alternatives, and increases in investment size. Greater rewards also promoted increases in commitment to maintain relationships, whereas changes in costs generally had no impact on commitment. For stayers, rewards increased, costs rose slightly, satisfaction grew, alternative quality declined, investment size increased, and commitment grew; for leavers the reverse occurred. Ss whose partners ended their relationships evidenced entrapment: They showed relatively low increases in satisfaction, but their alternatives declined in quality and they continued to invest heavily in their relationships. (39 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
Chapter
As a construct of psychological relevance, commitment has for some time been the focus of numerous programs of research, including explorations in decision making (Edwards, 1954; Festinger, 1957), deviation, and conformity in group settings (Kiesler & Corbin, 1965; Kiesler & Kiesler, 1969; Kiesler, Zanna, & De Salvo, 1966); the maintenance of costly courses of action (Staw, 1976, 1981; Staw & Fox, 1977); and job turnover (Aranya & Jacobson, 1975; Grusky, 1966; Porter, Crampon, & Smith, 1976). However, the examination of commitment specifically within the context of close relationships is a relatively recent development, with most theoretical treatments of the construct emerging after 1965 and most empirical studies being published after 1980. Given the relatively long history of research on interpersonal relationships, it is somewhat perplexing that the critical examination of commitment has been so late in coming to this area.
Article
Changes in the structure of friendship networks are thought to complement change in a couple's level of involvement in a close relationship. As a pair become close, their network of mutual friends should increase in size, and with declining involvement a concurrent reduction in the number of mutual friends should occur. A measure of network overlap was derived from daily reports of social activity provided by participants. The hypothesized variations of stage and overlap are consistently supported in both cross-sectional and logitudinal tests. Network overlap covaries with stage of relationship, and this covariation cannot be accounted for by a couple's familiarity or length of dating. Underlying variations in overlap are compositional changes in the stability of the network membership, involving either the reclassification of friends or actual changes in network membership. The findings are discussed in terms of the importance of considering the social context of developing relationships, since that context can serve both facilitative and disruptive functions.
Article
Due to their prevalence and unique affordances, social networking sites such as Facebook have the potential to influence offline relationships. This study employed Baxter's (2011) refinement of relational dialectics theory to explore Facebook's role in emerging adults' romantic relationships. Data from ten focus groups revealed that Facebook contributes to and provides a forum for discursive struggles related to the integration-separation, expression-privacy, and stability-change dialectics. Romantic partners are able to connect with each other and integrate their social networks on Facebook, but some struggle to maintain privacy and independence. As such, SNSs can be a site of and trigger for romantic conflict. Participants' responses indicated that Facebook is interwoven with the experience of these dialectics due to its affordances, specifically the semi-public nature of relationship activities on Facebook and the shift in control over relational information from individuals to network members.
Article
We conducted a longitudinal investigation to advance our understanding of determinants of the breakups of premarital relationships. We considered causes, derived from several major theories, that were located in a variety of sources in the relationship, in the social network environment, and in the individual. We extended previous longitudinal research methodologically by analyzing the data with hazard analysis, in which the dependent variable is the instantaneous rate at which a relationship terminates. In the analyses we examined how measures of different factors affected the rate at which a relationship changed from intact to broken up. We found that several variables were significant predictors of the rate at which relationships terminated, including comparison level for alternatives, amount of time spent together, dissimilarity in race, support from partner's social network, and duration of the relationship. These findings offer evidence suggesting that variables derived from social exchange, similarity, and social network theories all contribute toward an explanation of premarital breakups.