A new study from the University of Missouri has found that Twitter users are more likely to experience Twitter-related conflict in their romantic relationships, and this conflict is more likely to lead to unfaithful behavior, break-ups and divorce.
Russell Clayton, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, conducted the study. Clayton surveyed 581 Twitter users between the ages of 18 and 67. The survey included various questions to help the research team determine how active each participant was on Twitter – such as how often they signed on to the site, how frequently they tweeted, how much time they spent scrolling through their Twitter feed and how often they sent messages to other users.
The remaining questions on the survey were about how often Twitter use generated conflict with current or former partners. Clayton asked whether there were arguments about the volume or the nature of their Twitter use. He also looked into whether these conflicts corresponded with serious relationship difficulties such as infidelity or separation.
The survey revealed that more active Twitter users were more likely to have experienced conflict with a partner over their use of the social media platform. It also showed that this conflict predicted higher rates of cheating, break-ups and divorce.
Findings Consistent With Earlier Facebook Study
In 2013, Clayton published a similar study that looked at the relationship between the use of Facebook and trouble between romantic partners. Clayton hoped to support the findings of his previous study by revealing similar patterns related to Twitter – while also exploring whether the different social sites created any noticeably different patterns.
Overall, the findings between the two studies were fairly consistent. The Facebook study also showed that more hours spent on that social media site created more partner conflict, which in turn led to more infidelity and more severed relationships. Like the Twitter study, the Facebook study included a wide range of ages; in this case, 18 to 82.
One difference between the studies was the extent to which the outcomes varied for shorter relationships versus longer relationships. In the Facebook study, Clayton and his fellow researchers found that frequent Facebook use predicted conflict, infidelity and break-ups only among couples that had been together for three years or less.
However, the Twitter study found that the length of a relationship did not matter when it came to Twitter-related conflict. Participants in the survey who used Twitter frequently were more likely to have experienced conflict with a partner whether they were part of a new relationship or a long-term one. Furthermore, the frequency with which Twitter conflict led to more serious negative relationship outcomes remained the same for new and older relationships. Interpreting the Results
To say that certain activity predicts certain results is not quite the same as saying that the activity is the direct cause of the results. These two studies certainly give couples reasons to think about the amount of time they spend on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. However, they don’t mean that a high volume of social media use is necessarily going to cause a partner to cheat or a relationship to fall apart.
For one thing, relationship problems that already exist could be one reason that people in a relationship begin to spend many hours on Facebook or Twitter in the first place. People who are inclined to cheat on their partners may use networking sites like these to flirt or to find potential sexual partners, rather than suddenly developing an urge to cheat because of hours spent on a social media platform.
On the other hand, couples may want to be aware that excessive Facebook or Twitter use does fuel conflict. Users in new relationships may not realize that the amount of time they used to spend on sites when they were single may now be taking away from time they could be using to build their relationships.