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Facebook to Blame for Divorce Boom

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The dangers of social networking sites for the young are well documented, but increasing numbers of middle-aged users are also having their private lives thrown into turmoil by online activity.

Marriage counselors claim sites like Facebook are contributing to separations and divorce as bored 40 and 50-somethings try to reconnect with childhood sweethearts. British divorce firm Divorce-Online said Facebook was cited in one-fifth of the divorce petitions it processed last year, The Sunday Mail reports.

Australian Family Relationships Clearing House manager Elly Robinson said online behavior was causing friction in households.

"People will come in (for counseling) where one partner may deny their online behavior has been any sort of problem, but the issue is ... if it's upsetting one of those people in the relationship, it's a problem," she said.

Robinson said the lack of research on the effect of online behavior on relationships was surprising, considering the widespread use of social networking.

"Relationships develop more quickly online because inhibitions are lowered, it's easy to exchange information, people are online 24/7, there's an (endless) amount of people you can link up with who are there for the same reason, real life pressures fade away ... it's a bit of a fantasy world," she said.

Relationships Australia vice-president Anne Hollonds said while the Internet had made it easier to reconnect with lost loves, people ultimately had to take responsibility for their actions.

"The Internet doesn't make people have affairs.

"It's become the pathway of choice for many people but I don't think that means the Internet is breaking up families," she said.

"Everyone has some degree of fantasy about a love that might have been from the past and the technology now helps you find these people.

"But there's no evidence to suggest that had the technology not been available, you wouldn't have had an affair with someone else anyway."