Posts Tagged ‘Anxiety’

“Preoccupied” and “fearful” types use Facebook for partner surveillance

August 23, 2013

Yet another Facebook survey. This time to try and discern types of people who use Facebook to monitor their partners. It’s all data I suppose. But I’m not sure if a plethora of little surveys such as this one (328 college students surveyed) allows greater insight or just muddies the ever expanding pool of “data”.

It is probably advisable to keep a large bucket of salt handy when looking at the conclusions of Facebook surveys.

In any case there are some new terms to show up my ignorance. IES stands for Interpersonal Electronic Surveillance and SNS stands for Social Networking Sites. There are apparently four distinct attachment stylessecurepreoccupieddismissing, and fearful. Relationship Uncertainty ia also a parameter to bear in mind.

The authors surveyed 328 college students who were Facebook users and tested 3 hypotheses:

  1. H1: Higher levels of relationship uncertainty will be associated with greater IES of the current or ex-partner.
  2. H2: Preoccupied individuals will report greater relationship uncertainty than secure, dismissing, or fearful individuals.
  3. H3: Preoccupied individuals will report greater IES than secure, dismissing, or fearful individuals.

It seems that Relationship Uncertainty – surprisingly – was not a predictor for IES. However preoccupied and fearful types were more likely to carry out surveillance of their partners via Facebook.

Jesse Fox and Katie M. Warber, Social Networking Sites in Romantic Relationships: Attachment, Uncertainty, and Partner Surveillance on FacebookCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0667

Abstract:Social networking sites serve as both a source of information and a source of tension between romantic partners. Previous studies have investigated the use of Facebook for monitoring former and current romantic partners, but why certain individuals engage in this behavior has not been fully explained. College students (N=328) participated in an online survey that examined two potential explanatory variables for interpersonal electronic surveillance (IES) of romantic partners: attachment style and relational uncertainty. Attachment style predicted both uncertainty and IES, with preoccupieds and fearfuls reporting the highest levels. Uncertainty did not predict IES, however. Future directions for research on romantic relationships and online surveillance are explored.

It will not perhaps come as a complete surprise that for preoccupied and fearful types, their surveillance of their partners may well reinforce their preoccupations and their fears.

From Discussion:

This study contributed to recent research on attachment and new media technologies, and revealed that attachment theory is an effective framework for understanding interpersonal electronic surveillance between romantic partners and ex-partners on Facebook. Likely due to their high levels of relationship anxiety, preoccupied and fearful individuals experienced the highest levels of relational uncertainty and engaged in the highest levels of IES. Previous studies have noted the prevalence of using Facebook to monitor partners, and this study shed light on those findings by recognizing the role of attachment style in this process.It is important to recognize who engages in IES because it may affect levels of satisfaction, stability, and security within the relationship. Preoccupied and fearful individuals often identify or create problems in their relationship due to their levels of anxiety. Given the additional information available about one’s partner and their social interactions, Facebook may exacerbate preoccupieds’ and fearfuls’ anxiety about the relationship. For example, they might be more likely to interpret ambiguous content on Facebook in a negative way, which may create conflict or strain the relationship. ……

….. The lack of a relationship between uncertainty and IES was surprising. However, Muise et al. also found no relationship between relational uncertainty and Facebook-related jealousy. This finding may be an artifact of the sample, however; many college students may perceive their relationships as transient. Thus, although they are uncertain about the relationship, it may not concern them or influence their Facebook behaviors. Future studies should investigate different variables such as the desire to be in a relationship with the partner.

It was interesting that preoccupieds did not differ from fearful individuals in their levels of uncertainty or IES, but it may be because it is attachment-related anxiety rather than avoidance that predicts these outcomes. Our findings mirror previous studies on attachment which have shown that anxious attachment leads to more distress and partner monitoring after breakups. Facebook may appeal to these two types for different reasons. Preoccupieds might feel more control and closeness by using Facebook. Because fearfuls are both anxious and avoidant, Facebook may provide them with the perfect opportunity to monitor the partner and perceived relational threats passively without having to interact with or confront him or her directly. Future research should investigate different attachment styles’ motivations to engage in IES.

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