Doctoral student Russell Clayton recently concluded in a study that social media sites such as Twitter may play a part in causing conflict within romantic relationships.
The study was conducted with 581 Twitter users, each between 18-67 years old, and was published as “The Third Wheel: The Impact of Twitter Use on Relationship Infidelity and Divorce.” His 2013 study on Facebook and relationship outcomes gave him the platform to perform his recent research over Twitter.
Clayton co-authored a social media research publication titled “Cheating, Breakup, and Divorce: Is Facebook Use to Blame?” in 2013. He was prompted to question social media’s effects on romantic relationships after observing an older couple’s verbal dispute regarding Facebook.
“I observed a couple arguing over Facebook where the man was complaining to his wife that she was always on Facebook and not spending enough time with him, and that he was concerned that she added her ex-husband on Facebook,” Clayton said.
The 2013 study on Facebook found that excessive use of the social networking site could lead to conflict such as cheating, breakups and divorce.
“I saw a general trend that Facebook was increasing the conflict that led up to negative relationship outcomes,” Clayton said. “Once I found these results with Facebook, I thought, why wouldn’t Twitter have a similar result?”
The results indicated that active Twitter use leads to relationship conflict such as arguments and jealousy, which then predicted cheating, breakup and divorce.
His research has been talked about by several news organizations, including Yahoo! News, Huffington Post, Discovery and Time Magazine.
Clayton said the results of both studies seemed to be impacted by one critical variable — how long the couple had been together.
“What I found interesting was that in the Facebook study, the length of the relationship moderated the conflict, but in the Twitter study, the couples experienced conflict regardless of how long they had been in the relationship,” Clayton said.
He said couples who want to reduce conflict without giving up social media can look into alternatives to replace Facebook or Twitter.
“If couples are experiencing social network conflict and want to reduce the conflict without giving up social media, then perhaps these couples should share joint social media accounts to reduce social networking conflict,” Clayton said.
There are currently social media apps such as “2Life,” an iPhone app for couples that supports relationship communication. Clayton said apps like this could provide a good alternative for avid social media users.
Knowing that this type of research is increasing, he is optimistic about the future impact and value these studies bring to the public’s awareness.
“Overall, I’m pretty intrigued with the outcomes because the results tell the story of what I had initially observed regarding Facebook and relationship conflict,” Clayton said. “New research on social media has also indicated that social media use is correlated with narcissism, loneliness, anxiousness, and now, relationship conflict.”