What Your (& Your S.O.'s) Facebook Profile Says About Your Relationship

By Fred Clavél, M.A.
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We all know that one online over-sharer — that friend who posts a Facebook status about every meal, chronicles every TV episode watched, and shares one too many details about his or her seemingly perfect personal life. And we know these details don't always match up with what's happening offline.

This match (or lack thereof) between "real" life and Facebook life has us wondering: Just how much do partners' Facebook profiles actually reflect their real experiences as a couple? And, when partners have lots of things in common between their profiles, does this mean they're really as close as they appear to be?

To get the answer, researchers surveyed 46 different couples to find out whether partners' reports on how close they felt would be consistent with the extent to which their Facebook profiles overlapped.

Maybe when it comes to Facebook, couples who appear to be close may indeed feel more committed and invested in their relationships.

They also examined whether real relationship experiences would predict partners' Facebook profile overlap in the same way. This included how invested in, committed to, and satisfied with the relationship each partner was.
Related: Is Your Facebook Profile Picture A Window Into Your Relationship?

To measure how much the couples felt they overlapped with each other, the researchers used the "inclusion of other in the self" (IOS) scale. In this scale, pairs of circles overlap (like a Venn diagram) to varying degrees. So, each circle represents one member of the couple. Participants were asked to choose which pair of circles best describes their relationship. Some couples barely overlap (feel like they don't have much in common), while some overlap almost entirely (feel like they have a lot in common).
Researchers also measured profile overlap via what they called "Facebook inclusion of other in the self." This took three kinds of Facebook information into account:

1. The number of a couple's mutual friends relative to an individual's total number of friends.
2. The number of pictures including both members of the couple relative to an individual partner's total number of pictures.
3. The number of mutual Facebook "likes" (shared interests) relative to each person's total number of "likes."

The researchers found that partners who felt like they overlapped or were one and the same with their partners tended to also have Facebook profiles with more overlap with their partners' Facebook profiles. Also, partners who said they were more committed in their relationship tended to have more mutual friends, photos, and likes on Facebook. So, similarity between two partners' profiles can actually tell us a lot about their relationship reality — or at least the partners' perceived realities.
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Partners who said they were more committed included more mutual friends, photos, and likes.

Related: What Are The Implications Of Being "Facebook Official?"

This study speaks to the power of social media experiences to tell us about real-life dynamics of relationships. Maybe when it comes to Facebook, couples who appear to be close may indeed feel more committed and invested in their relationships. It's reassuring to know that this is one thing Facebook portrays pretty accurately.

So if you want to get a fresh sense of how close you and your partner really might be, your roster of "likes" — and soon "dislikes" — could be a good place to start.

Next: Should You Stay "Friends" With Your Ex On Facebook?
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