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London - If you're an avid tweeter who values their relationship, we have one important piece of advice... step away from the phone now!
New research from University of Missouri, USA, found that Twitter causes relationship conflict, which in turn is linked to emotional and physical infidelity, breakups and divorce.
The study's author, Russell Clayton, surveyed 581 Twitter users of all ages and asked how much conflict arose as a result of the social networking site.
He found that the more active people were on Twitter, the more likely it was to cause arguments between them and spiral into serious relationship issues - including divorce.
So why is it that Twitter can wreak havoc with your love life? “Even if you are sat in silence with your partner, reaching for your phone breaks any connection, makes the other feel that they are boring you,” says sex and relationship therapist Sarah Berry.
And then there's all that flirting: “Online flirting with others may seem innocent but it can still hurt. It can lead to your partner not trusting you.
“Even if your flirting is only online and you have not been unfaithful in the flesh, it can still feel like a public slap in the face for your partner.”
In previous research, Clayton found Facebook had a similar effect.
But whereas Facebook-related conflict was greater among couples in newer relationships (of 36 months or less), in this latest Twitter research, Clayton found the same worrying outcomes occurred regardless of how long people had been together.
“I found it interesting that active Twitter users experienced Twitter-related conflict and negative relationship outcomes regardless of length of romantic relationship,” Clayton said.
“Couples who reported being in relatively new relationships experienced the same amount of conflict as those in longer relationships.”
His advice for Twitter lovers? To limit use of social networking sites to more healthy, reasonable levels.
“Although a number of variables can contribute to relationship infidelity and separation, social networking site usage, such as Twitter and Facebook use, can be damaging to relationships,” Clayton said.
“Therefore, users should cut back to moderate, healthy levels of Twitter use if they are experiencing Twitter or Facebook-related conflict.”
“Some couples share joint social networking site accounts to reduce relationship conflict, and there are some social networking site apps, such as the 2Life app, that facilitates interpersonal communication between partners.”
The 2Life app is a private, secure network that lets you chat, share, collaborate and coordinate with your partner. It features a “date night” feature powered by Yelp's local listings so that couples can browse reviews before deciding where they want to have dinner. They can also chat in the built-in messaging space and there's a private shared journal.
In his previous study, Clayton, surveyed Facebook users aged between 18 and 82, asking them how much they used the social network and how often they had bust-ups with their partners - past or present - that had been ignited by the site.
Dr Clayton said: “Previous research has shown that the more a person in a romantic relationship uses Facebook, the more likely they are to monitor their partner's Facebook activity more stringently, which can lead to feelings of jealousy.
“Facebook-induced jealousy may lead to arguments concerning past partners.
“Also, our study found that excessive Facebook users are more likely to connect or reconnect with other Facebook users, including previous partners, which may lead to emotional and physical cheating.”
According to the study, published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking,couples who are just starting out should consider staying away from the site.
Dr Clayton explained: “The findings held only for couples who had been in relationships of three years or less. This suggests that Facebook may be a threat to relationships that are not fully matured.
“On the other hand, participants who have been in relationships for longer than three years may not use Facebook as often, or may have more matured relationships, and therefore Facebook use may not be a threat or concern.
“Although Facebook is a great way to learn about someone, excessive Facebook use may be damaging to newer romantic relationships.
“Cutting back to moderate, healthy levels of Facebook usage could help reduce conflict, particularly for newer couples who are still learning about each other.” - Daily Mail