Close Encounters

From close relationships to online behavior

Is Twitter Hurting Your Relationship?

Research finds a link between excessive Twitter use and break-ups

Flickr user hang-in-there License CC BY 2.0
Flickr user hang-in-there License CC BY 2.0
A new study suggests that overuse of Twitter could cause relationship conflicts, leading to infidelity and breakup. But what do these findings really mean?

Social media has become a major part of many people’s lives with over a billion monthly active users on Facebook worldwide (Facebook, 2014). Twitter is increasing in popularity and catching up quickly with 255 million monthly active users (Twitter, 2014). So how is all this time on social media affecting our most important relationships? A new survey of Twitter users sought to shed light on how excessive Tweeting could be related to relationship difficulties.

Russell Clayton conducted a survey of 386 Twitter users who were involved in romantic relationships. Survey respondents were asked how often they used the site as well as how frequently they experienced “Twitter-related conflict.” This was defined as arguments due to excessive Twitter use or viewing of friends’ Twitter profiles. They were also asked about other problems in their relationship brought about by Twitter. For example, they were asked if they had become sexually or emotionally involved with someone they connected with or reconnected with on Twitter and if Twitter had led to a breakup or divorce.

The results showed that heavy use of Twitter was related to Twitter-related conflict and Twitter-related relationship difficulties. In addition, relationship problems were especially likely to result from excessive Twitter use for couples who experienced a lot of Twitter-related conflict. The study’s author speculated that these Twitter-related fights could be responsible for cheating and breakups.

But before you rush off to cancel your or your partner’s Twitter account, remember that these findings are purely correlational. While it is possible that excessive Twitter use leads to conflicts which will ultimately lead to bad outcomes for your relationship, it is also possible that couples who are already having relationship difficulties choose Twitter over their partners, and when this is discovered conflicts occur. Connecting with others on Twitter may be an easy escape from an unhappy relationship, one which can lead to jealousy and provide opportunities for infidelity. So Twitter itself is not necessarily going to create problems in your relationship, but excessive Twitter use, especially if it leads to fights with your partner, could be a sign that something is wrong, and if those signs are ignored Twitter could help to hasten the demise of the relationship.

References:

Clayton, R. B. (published online before print). The third wheel: The impact of Twitter use on relationship infidelity and divorce. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. doi:10.1089/cyber.2013.0570

Facebook (2014). Newsroom: Key facts. Facebook.com. http://newsroom.fb.com/Key-Facts

Twitter (2014). About. https://about.twitter.com/company

Photo credit: Flickr user hang-in-there License CC BY 2.0

Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology and co-chair of the psychology department at Albright College.

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