Twitter and other social networking services have revolutionized the way people create and maintain relationships. However, new research shows that Twitter use could actually be damaging to users' romantic relationships. In their weekly conversation, WHYY's behavioral health reporter Maiken Scott and psychologist Dan Gottlieb discussed the findings.
MS: Dan, could you describe this research?
DG: It's a fairly small study, but it's interesting because it puts some numbers on a relatively new issue. The research was done by Russell Clayton, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri, who surveyed close to 600 Twitter users of all ages. He found that the more active people were on Twitter, the more they experienced Twitter-related conflict with romantic partners, which then significantly predicted negative relationship outcomes such as cheating, break-up and divorce. He previously studied the same issue with Facebook - and had the same outcomes.
MS: So... do new opportunities pose new challenges, we have more ways to 'do the wrong thing'?
DG: Sure. Social media offers people an "initially innocent" way to connect with lots and lots of people. If you go to a party, you can easily friend a person you meet there on Facebook the next day, or start to follow them on Twitter. You can tell them via social media that you liked their outfit. You would never pick up the phone and call a random person after you meet them at a party, and tell them that you liked their outfit. This can easily lead to flirtations that go to the next level. A lot of times, we don't examine our underlying emotions in making social media connections, the technology moves so quickly, and you just fire off things. When you are talking to somebody in person, you have a stronger filter, and editor. But when you're online, that editor is often out to lunch!
MS: How should couples talk about this?
DG: Couples need to talk about what monogamy and honesty means to them, and then determine boundaries that work for their relationship.