A new study shows heavy Twitter use could be a damaging factor in relationships.
Russell Clayton, a doctoral student in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, found that active Twitter users are far more likely to experience Twitter — related conflict with their romantic partners, which can lead to divorce, break-ups, emotional and physical cheating. He surveyed 581 Twitter users of varying ages.
Conflict can include anything from spending too much time on the social network to using the site specifically to engage with someone outside of the user’s relationship.
Since Twitter is not a dating site, nor was it created to foster romance, the site can be seen as an “innocent” platform in which to communicate with someone publicly or privately. But fights regarding a person’s Twitter use, Clayton points out, doesn’t mean one partner is using Twitter to cheat, but rather, driven away from the relationship to pursue other options in any venue.
This is Clayton’s abstract for the study, titled “The Third Wheel: The Impact Of Twitter Use On Relationship Infidelity And Divorce.”
Clayton asked participants questions about their Twitter use such as how often they login in to Twitter, tweet, scroll the Twitter newsfeed, send direct messages to others, and reply to followers. Clayton also asked how much, if any, conflict arose between participants’ current or former partners as a result of Twitter use.
Clayton has done similar studies in the past. Recently, he focused on the same question but put the spotlight on another popular network: Facebook.
He found the outcomes of both studies were similar: those who spend lots of time on the social sites were more likely to stray.
One difference between heavy Facebook users and heavy Twitter users and the demise of their relationships was that couples in new relationships (3 years or less) experienced more romantic duress when one or both partners heavily engaged with Facebook. On Twitter, Clayton found the duration of the relationship mattered much less.
“I found it interesting that active Twitter users experienced Twitter-related conflict and negative relationship outcomes regardless of length of romantic relationship,” Clayton said. “Couples who reported being in relatively new relationships experienced the same amount of conflict as those in longer relationships.”
Clayton recommends couples of all ages limit their use of social networking sites to more healthy, reasonable levels.