A New Study Suggests Twitter Could Cause Your Divorce, But I’m Not Convinced

According to a new study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, people who are very active on Twitter are more likely to be involved in intense confrontations in their relationships — the kind that are catalysts for things like cheating, breakups and divorce. At least, that’s what the evidence points to, but I’d take it with a grain of salt.

The study surveyed 581 Twitter users and measured their “active Twitter use” by asking them how frequently they log into the site and tweet, reply to tweets, use direct messaging, and scroll through their timeline. Participants were also asked if their Twitter use ever sparked conflict with current or former significant others. The more often a person was considered an active Twitter user, the more likely they were to have Twitter-related disagreements with their partner,”which then significantly predicted negative relationship outcomes such as cheating, breakup, and divorce.”

The study’s lead author, Russell B. Clayton of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, said, “If high amounts of Twitter use does, indeed, lead to high amounts of Twitter-related conflict (i.e., arguments pertaining to a partner’s Twitter use, etc.) among romantic partners, it is plausible to speculate that such conflict could lead to unfavorable relationship outcomes such as cheating, breakup, or divorce.”

So really, this conclusion is speculation. It’s an educated guess, but there is no glaring piece of data that says “TWITTER WILL RUIN YOUR MARRIAGE” in bright red letters, so the findings aren’t something to get too anxious about. It’s also worth noting that the study’s participants were sought via Clayton and The Huffington Post’s Twitter accounts. There could be a very specific type of audience following those two accounts, which means the results could just be representative of a distinct group. It’s also important to consider that anytime someone is asked to answer questions from memory (in this case, about things like how often they’re on Twitter or what really caused that most recent fight with their fiance), their response can be skewed by an emotional bias. The way we perceive past events is clouded by a whole lot of feelings and other variables that aren’t absolute reality.

Participants also knew throughout the process that the study was about Twitter and relationship outcomes, so they knew what kinds of responses researchers were likely hoping to hear. People who’ve had a memorable Twitter-related dating issue may have been more eager to participate from the start. On the other hand, people who felt like they didn’t have a relevant story to contribute probably weren’t too interested in partaking — which means we could be missing data from tons of people whose relationships are just fine despite a shit ton of tweeting.

So, while it’s clear that Twitter can cause disagreements between couples, it’s more presumed that it could cause breakups and cheating rather than concretely proven. I do think that social media can be damaging to relationships, but above all, it simply exacerbates issues that already existed between the couple, just like any other form of communication or socializing could. Twitter is a medium for each individual in a relationship, not a third player in a couple’s drama.

Even if it doesn’t quite spell romantic doom, research like this is important, because as Clayton says, “although a number of variables can contribute to relationship infidelity and separation, social networking site usage, such as Twitter and Facebook use, can be damaging to relationships. Therefore, users should cut back to moderate, healthy levels of Twitter use if they are experiencing Twitter or Facebook-related conflict.”

Relationship peril or not, I think we could all use reminders here and there to cut back to “healthy” levels of social network usage. What do you think about these findings? Have you ever gotten into a fight with your partner over Twitter?

[Time]
[University of Missouri]
[PsychCentral]