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The Changing Face of Problematic Internet Use

An Interpersonal Approach

Scott E. Caplan

Since the advent of the Internet and increasingly mobile devices, we have witnessed dramatic changes in computer-mediated technologies and their roles in our lives. In the late 1990s, researchers began to identify problematic forms of Internet use, such as difficulty controlling the amount of time spent online. Today, people live in a perpetually digital and permanently connected world that presents many serious types of problematic Internet use besides deficient self-regulation. Thousands of studies have been published on interpersonal problems such as cyberbullying, cyberstalking, relationship conflicts about online behavior, and the increasingly problematic use of mobile devices during in-person interactions. The Changing Face of Problematic Internet Use: An Interpersonal Approach also examines future trends, including the recent development of being constantly connected to mobile devices and social networks. Research in these areas is fraught with controversy, inconsistencies, and findings that are difficult to compare and summarize. This book offers students and researchers an organized, theory-based, synthesis of research on these problems and explains how interpersonal theory and research help us better understand the problems that online behavior plays in our personal lives and social interactions.

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3. Online Relational Transgressions


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Chapter Three

Online Relational Transgressions

As social networking and mobile devices became integrated into our personal lives, the traditional media and press, along with researchers, began to ask how online social behaviors might pose relational risks to romantic couples and friends. A 2010 article in The Daily Mail described Facebook as “the marriage killer,” noting that one in five American divorces involved Facebook (Gardner, 2010). In a 2010 study, 81% percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys reported seeing an increase in the number of divorce cases employing social networking evidence (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 2010). The study noted, “Facebook holds the distinction of being the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence with 66% citing it as the primary source.” The Atlantic indicated that lawyers had begun recommending people obtain prenuptial and postnuptial digital privacy contracts. Such agreements “prevent spouses from using personal texts, emails, or photos against each other should they wind up in divorce court” (Cottle, 2014, p. 60).

The online transgressions described in this chapter range from harmless and mundane annoyances to severe conflicts that may end a ← 61 | 62 → close relationship. In families, a parent’s online relational transgression may not only harm the other spouse, but children are often affected by parent stress and conflict. Among friends, transgressions can cause conflict, hurt feelings, and end relationships. In romantic relationships, communication technology can facilitate affairs. Whether intentional or not, a variety of online behaviors can create, enhance,...

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