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Is Twitter Bad for Relationships?

If you’re one of our many frequent visitors you know that we recently wrote about the validity of the data presented on OKCupid’s blog. I’m not going to rehash the points raised there, but did want to note a few additional things related to the recent OKTrends post “10 Charts about Sex.” First, it is important to realize that they base their “…observations and statistics from hundreds of millions of OkCupid user interactions.” In other words, they have a TON of data. We love data, so that is automatically better than anecdotes and opinions. With that much data, associations between variables and differences between groups will inevitably emerge. That isn’t to say that their charts aren’t provocative. They certainly are. 

One such chart, “How Long Do Your Relationships Usually Last?” compares the relationship length of people of various ages who use Twitter every day to everyone else and finds that frequent Tweeters have shorter relationships. OkTrends points out that they don't really know who initiated the break-up (the Twitter-er or their partner).  Also, as we pointed out in our post about whether Facebook causes divorce and infidelity, correlation does not equal causation. If you're already planning to break-up with your current partner, developing a raging Twitter habit probably won’t be the cause of your relationship ending.

So what’s going on? Well, it’s possible there is some sort of link. If you spend a lot of time on Twitter sharing details of your life, it may not be good for your relationship-- you should probably spend that time and energy talking to your partner instead. It’s also possible that frequent Tweeters encounter a greater number of alternate partners, which lead them to be less committed to their relationship.1

Another possibility is that frequent Tweeting is indicative of narcissism, a personality trait where an individual is selfish, conceited, vain, and egotistical.2 Certainly this isn’t true of everyone who posts on Twitter, but posting daily updates could be a sign of narcissism. Seriously, does anyone really enjoy reading those thinly veiled “look at me I’m awesome, and here’s why” tweets? If you have a narcissistic partner, it may just mean that you are dating a celebrity like Charlie Sheen. Unfortunately, narcissistic individuals put themselves first at the expense of their partner, which may contribute to shorter relationships.3 So if you frequently post on Twitter, you don’t need to go cold turkey per se. However, you want to be sure that you are doing enough to foster your relationship.

While we're on the topic of Twitter, this seems like a good time to encourage you to re-Tweet this post and to remind you to check out our feed.  I hope we aren’t posting too often-- I don't think we're narcissists and we promise not to break-up with you.

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1Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The Investment Model Scale: Measuring commitment level, satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size. Personal Relationships, 5(4), 357-391. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.1998.tb00177.x

2Emmons, R. A. (1984). Factor analysis and construct validity of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Journal of Personality Assessment, 48(3), 291-300. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa4803_11

3Campbell, W. K. (2005). When you love a man who loves himself: How to deal with a one-way relationship. Chicago, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Dr. Gary Lewandowski - Science of Relationships articles | Website
Dr. Lewandowski's research explores the self’s role in romantic relationships focusing on attraction, relationship initiation, love, infidelity, relationship maintenance, and break-up. Recognized as one of the Princeton Review’s Top 300 Professors, he has also authored dozens of publications for both academic and non-academic audiences.

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