News flash: Excessive Twitter use can ruin your relationship—but you knew that already, didn’t you?
A study published Thursday in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that active Twitter use “leads to greater amounts of Twitter-related conflict among romantic partners, which in turn leads to infidelity, breakup, and divorce.” However, unlike what previous studies about how Facebook affects relationships have gleaned, this study found that it doesn’t matter how long a couple has been together—relationship maturity may not influence how pissed your partner will be when they suspect you’re flirting with some floozy via direct messages.
The study, conducted by University of Missouri doctoral candidate Russell Clayton, was intended as a follow-up to an investigation last year on the effects of Facebook on romantic relationships. Some 514 participants aged 18 to 67 (of whom 63 percent were male and 62 percent were Caucasian) were asked questions about how often they log into Twitter and how often they tweet, @reply, DM followers, and scroll through their newsfeeds. The average amount of time participants spent on Twitter was relatively normal: 52 minutes per day, five days per week.
Then, to measure Twitter’s homewrecking effect, participants were asked how often they had arguments with significant others as a result of excessive Twitter use, or as a result of viewing friends’ Twitter profiles, among other questions. Unsurprisingly, the results showed that tweeting and infidelity or breakups were positively correlated—though both Clayton and the journal’s editor in chief say you shouldn’t throw your phone and computer out the window just yet.
“Since much of the social-networking research is in its infancy, we do not know if other media, such as Instagram, will also impact relationships in a negative way,” the journal’s editor in chief, Brenda Wiederhold, said in a statement. Clayton also writes that the effects of apps like 2life, which are designed to provide partners with a private place for sharing, has yet to be studied.
But in the meanwhile, evidence keeps piling up. Multiple studies on Facebook’s effect on relationships have found that Facebook-induced jealousy, partner surveillance, ambiguous posts, and online portrayals of intimate relationships are often damaging to romantic relationships, as Clayton’s study acknowledges. A 2011 study of college students who monitored their exes on social media found that intrusions into the students’ relationships, both online and offline, often came as a consequence. And another study, conducted in 2012, found that remaining friends with an ex on social media, especially Facebook, delays the healing process after a breakup by increasing sexual desire, longing for the ex, and stunting personal growth.
In Twitter’s case, the content users can post is similar enough to Facebook’s (photos, check-ins, status updates, the works) that the results of overuse on a romantic relationship are similar as well. Just ask anyone who’s tried splitting their partner’s attention with a phone—that shit gets old fast.