People who add new romantic interests to their Facebook "friends" list while in a romantic relationship tend to have a lower level of commitment to their current mate, a recent study finds.
The fact of having old flames on one's friend list, however, is unrelated to commitment level, according to the report that examined whether conduct on Facebook is something romantic partners should worry about.
"People are using Facebook and other social media sites to make romantic connections with people they would entertain having a relationship with, even if they are in a committed romantic relationship," said Michelle Drouin, lead author of the paper and a psychologist at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Past research indicates that Facebook has been cited in as many as one third of divorces in recent years, according to Drouin and her colleagues.
To assess the social networking site's potential role in relationship issues, the team recruited college students for their study. All of the 109 women and 39 men were undergraduates and had Facebook accounts.
The researchers looked at how many Facebook friends each participant had and asked them to rate on a scale of one to six how likely they were to initiate or accept a "friend" request from someone they considered a potential romantic interest.
They also measured participants' level of Facebook-related jealousy with a 27-item survey assessing how jealous the respondent would be if his or her partner added a new friend of the opposite sex on Facebook.
Finally, a questionnaire was used to evaluate participants' commitment to their current relationship, by having them rate statements such as, "I am committed to maintaining my relationship with my partner" and "I want our relationship to last for a very long time."
Drouin and her team found that only connections with potential romantic partners made while in the relationship - and not before getting together with one's current mate - were linked to a lower level of commitment to the relationship.
That is, participants who were less committed to their partners were likelier to accept and even initiate Facebook friend requests with people they viewed as romantic interests, the team reports in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
But the presence of old flames that remained on one's friend list even after entering a new relationship was unrelated to the students' level of commitment to their current partner, as was how often one "friended" potential mates when single.
Amy Muise, a postdoctoral fellow in