The continual growth in social media usage since 2004 is linked to China’s rising divorce rate, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Both the country’s social media usage and its divorce rate have been on the rise in recent years, particularly within the past decade.
Statistics from the MCA state that while 23.4 percent of the population – or 3.1 million couples – divorced in 2012, the divorce rate in large cities like Beijing and Tianjin jumped to around 30 percent in 2013. Comparatively, the divorce rate in China in 1979 was only 4.7 percent.
Published in Chinese e-zine Banyuetan, many of the study’s participants claimed social media was either failing to bring them closer to their spouse or was detrimental to their relationship and cited as a causal factor in its breakdown. Social apps for mobile devices, such as the popular free messaging service WeChat, make it easier than ever to reach out to strangers and forge online relationships that may distract or detract from marriages, explained the report. WeChat has 468 million active users each month.
“I would never use social software in front of my husband because it would cause too many arguments,” said study participant Liu Yun. She explained that messaging men in her vicinity keeps her entertained when she feels bored and that she exchanges “nice photos” with men online, which she does not show to her husband.
However, not everyone is convinced that social media is to blame for the heightened rate of divorce in China. Li Hongxiang, a law professor with Jinlin University, expressed his belief that a dwindling sense of respect for marriage itself has led to the jump in divorce. Additionally, a marriage registration regulation has made it easier for couples to get a civil divorce since 2003.
Furthermore, a Chinese marriage therapy website called Yihunyin.com claims that the growing number of mistresses found on WeChat or similar apps may be to blame for the rising rate of divorce.
In an age where it is ever easier to connect with anyone from anywhere around the globe, it seems that taking intimate relationships for granted has become a worldwide problem.