Women Talk: Green-eyed monsters (of jealousy)

© Photo : Mikhail Kharlamov/Marie Claire RussiaSvetlana Kolchik
Svetlana Kolchik - Sputnik International
She posted new photos online and he immediately put a “like” on them, can you imagine?” my girlfriend's voice was shaking. She was talking of her husband's recent Facebook exchange with his ex-girlfriend — it made her devastated.

She posted new photos online and he immediately put a “like” on them, can you imagine?” my girlfriend's voice was shaking. She was talking of her husband's recent Facebook exchange with his ex-girlfriend — it made her devastated.

“I feel bad checking out his Facebook page, but I just can't help it — they chat almost daily,” my friend said, nearly crying, as if social network chatting meant, in fact, cheating.

But does it really? Or is my friend and many others who can't help snooping their partners' social networks' pages suffering from a new form of neurosis, Facebook Rage? The term, recently coined by sociologists, implies compulsive stalking of the other half's online activity, searching for incriminating evidence of infidelity.

“Does Facebook bring out the green-eyed monster of jealousy?” was a title of a study done some time ago by a group of human sexuality researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. The scientists set to explore of how social networks could breed insecurity and mistrust in romantic relationships. They used a focus group of university students who were currently not single.

It turned out Facebook and other social networks do breed jealousy and other not so positive traits and instincts, the researchers came to realize. The non-jealous personality types might gradually become so and insecure individuals might indeed turn into the paranoid controlling monsters — all it takes is catching a love interest in such “suspicious” online activities like posting flirtatious comments or being tagged – or identified in “equivocal” photographs. And since, according to the study's findings, the majority of Facebook users tend to add previous romantic liaisons to their contacts, social media could create jealousy even if there never used to be such issues in a relationship. Brief, cryptic and therefore intriguing comments' format as well as the accessibility of the information about everyone could turn otherwise trusting and stable people into detective maniacs for whom “mystalking” (spying on the partner’s MySpace behavior) and “facestalking” become a daily routine.

Curiously, women are a more vulnerable group in this trend. First, they tend to be naturally more prone to jealousy to begin with and secondly, studies show that females devote more time to Facebook and other social media than males.

“He added yet another sexy blond to his friends' list! She also tagged him in her photos — who knows if they're just friends or they are sleeping together?!” my other girlfriend complained to me the other day of her on and off boyfriend, a party animal who indeed boasts an extensive Facebook “friends” directory mainly consisting of young attractive girls. When I suggested this otherwise very calm and collected woman with university degrees and a successful career in marketing, refrained from opening his Facebook page on her iPhone with a minimum once an hour frequency, she said she “simply could not help it.” “I do it instinctively, on autopilot, and I am sure he checks me out online, too,” she said.

Another friend told me of a guy who kept asking her on dates while his Facebook status read “In Relationship.” Yet another friend confessed he felt uneasy when his ex-wife kept tagging him in the photos she put out on Facebook, some of rather frivolous nature, from the times they were together. “We are not in touch anymore so I can't tell her what to do but I get frustrated because I don't want my girlfriend to see this,” he said. Finally, a colleague of mine who used to stay away from social networking confided to me about his plans to register in vkontakte.ru, a Russian version of Facebook, just to be able to check out what his wife was doing over there.

It seems to me that having embraced the information age and all the immense opportunities it provides, we risk putting our private lives at stake. Besides, thanks to the ever-increasing exposure and 24/7 accessibility how much of private territory is really left? And if we choose to move bits and pieces of our personal stuff into the public domain shouldn't we be more responsible on one hand and, perhaps, more trusting on the other?

In fact, some couples I know have recently agreed to eliminate all kind of social networks’ content with jealousy-provoking potential. Others have decided to delete their Facebook profiles entirely. In my friend’s case that’s not possible – she needs this medium for work. Still, she said she considers talking to her husband if the latter’s flighty facebooking continues to bother her.

“I would never check his phone or his email. It's his private life and to me it's sacred,” my friend said. “I would be way happier if I simply didn't know. But with social networks it’s just not possible – curiosity takes over,” she said.

It’s especially true about Facebook which, as opposed to other similar sites requiring a password, allows to monitor the other members’ activities undetected. “Facebook is a forum that can expose individuals to more information about their partner than they may otherwise have access to,” psychologist Amy Muise who led the “green-eyed monster” study, observed in an interview.

To be honest, I am a great deal relieved that my partner doesn't use Facebook at all. As an old Russian proverb goes, the less you know, the better you sleep. 

The views expressed in this column are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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Russia has always been referred to as feminine and Russian women have been one of the most popular stereotypes of this nation, both positive and negative. But is this an all-male fantasy? Here is a hip, modern, professional and increasingly globalized Russian woman looking at the trends around her, both about her gender and the society at large. She talks and lets other women talk.

Svetlana Kolchik, 33, is deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire magazine. She holds degrees from the Moscow State University Journalism Department and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for Argumenty i Fakty weekly in Moscow and USA Today in Washington, D.C., and contributed to RussiaProfile.org, Russian editions of Vogue, Forbes and other publications.

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