China’s burgeoning social media is turning out to be a leading cause behind break up of marriages, pushing the divorce rates up, according to a new report.
A report by the Ministry of Civil Affairs found 3.637 million couples divorced in 2014, up by 3.9 percent from the previous year.
Statistics from the ministry show the world’s most populous country has been witnessing a continuous rise in divorce since 2002.
Su, a white collar worker from Shanghai, was stunned and furious after discovering her husband’s secret romances online.
“I found he had viewed dating websites after looking through the search history on his computer,” she said. Exploring further, she discovered her husband had been in touch with several “girlfriends” on different social networks.
China’s social media platform Weibo, a Twitter-like service is accessed by over 668 million, mainly on their mobile phones besides various internet platforms, making it the world’s biggest social media network.
Yu Kun, a Beijing-based psychologist, said among all the extramarital affairs of his young clients, about half of them were initiated through the internet. But experts agree that social media generally only affects relationships that were already strained.
In some cases, social networking apps such as WeChat and Momo, which facilitate socialising with strangers, can be a tool in dismantling an already fragile marriage, Chen Yiyun, an expert from the marriage and family research institute under the All-China Women’s Federation, said.
Social media is never the root cause of divorce, Han Junmei, a commentator on “Incompatibility undermines marriages and social networks just increases the possibility of breaking up,” she wrote.
Social media is not the only factor behind the rising divorce rate. The younger generation’s attitude toward marriage has also changed.
“In the past, people were more conservative and saw it as a shame to get divorced,” marriage consultant Shu Xin said.
“Nowadays, people care more about the quality of marriage and are more willing to break the social norms for the sake of happiness,” said Shu. Social mobility also takes part of the blame.
“The rising divorce rate is closely related to the flow of labour from rural to urban areas,” said Liu Ning, researcher with Party School of CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee.
Many migrant workers who suffer from long-term separation with their partners are susceptible to extramarital affairs, he said.