As we all head away for the Easter break hoping for a harmonious few days away, it might be a good idea to leave the smart phone at home. It may not come as a shock to many to learn that new research indicates that Twitter users might actually be damaging their relationships as a result of social media use.
We’ve all been there – you’re having a conversation with someone and either they, or you, are halfheartedly attempting to continue it whilst at the same time being unable to tear eyes away from what’s dominating a newsfeed.
The research from the University of Missouri, USA found that Twitter causes relationship conflict. Whilst this in itself isn’t likely to be enough to split a couple up, relationship conflict is linked to very serious relationship issues like infidelity – physical and emotional – as well as break ups and divorce. The study found that the more active people were on Twitter, the more likely it was that this would cause arguments between two partners, which could well result in some serious problems.
Then of course there’s the issue of flirting online – either very publicly through a Twitter feed or privately via direct message. Even if there has never been any physical contact between the ‘unfaithful’ partner and the person that they are flirting with it can still be an enormous kick in the teeth for their other half – and twice as humiliating if it’s plastered all over social media for all to see.
Interestingly, when the study looked at Facebook usage the effect was seen much more in those in relatively new relationships and not those that were better established. However, this was not the case with Twitter, which affected just about any relationship it touched! Russell Clayton, who was the author of the research said ‘I found it interesting that active Twitter users experienced Twitter-related conflict and negative relationship outcomes regardless of length of romantic relationship…couples who reported being in relatively new relationships experienced the same amount of conflict as those in longer relationships.’
Of course there are some clear lessons to be learned here that apply to just about any use of social media, not just in a personal romantic context. For example, if you’re going to use social media make sure that you’re happy for the world to see what you post or Tweet – including your other half (or your boss). Make sure you take time out from the virtual world to interact with real human beings, whether that’s spending time with a partner or catching up on face to face meetings with clients, as well as social networking. And finally, if you find yourself frantically scrolling through Twitter every five minutes because you don’t want to miss anything – even if it’s the latest updates from the MD Communications Twitter account! – then you might have a bit of a problem and it’s perhaps time for a social media break…