The studies about how social media affects our emotions are inconsistent at best. One study says Facebook makes us hate our lives, another says emotions are infectious. And what of the recent study that links Twitter with divorce and infidelity? Perhaps as social media becomes more a part of everyday life, people use it for doing things they’d do everyday.
The self-reporting study found that the more time people spent on Twitter, scanning feeds and sending DMs, the more likely they were to experience “Twitter-related conflict.” According to Slate, the study used a very small sample size with no control group, and was inconclusive at best:
What the study didn’t do was compare the relationship problems of Twitter users with people who don’t use the network at all. It also didn’t ask about relationship problems that arise outside of Twitter — at the office, over email, over the phone, at the gym or on online dating sites, for example. So we don’t know if Twitter increases incidents of emotional or physical cheating. All we know is that Twitter increases the likelihood of emotional or physical cheating occurring via Twitter.
Twitter isn’t the first service to be connected to cheating and divorce. In fact, the same researcher came to the same conclusion about Facebook. Indeed, people have been blaming Facebook for their failed relationships for some time now. One man detailed how he found an ex on Facebook and carried on an emotional affair, which resulted in the end of his engagement.
The account acknowledged that social media — and Facebook in particular — keeps you connected to friends and lovers of the past that, were it not for the technology, would otherwise stay in the past. His fiance found out, read through the correspondence, and tried to forget. But the damage was already done.
His advice: Don’t be friends with exes on Facebook. The advice from the researcher connecting our larger social networks to cheating and divorce: log off and stop cheating.
Slate contributor Amanda Hess suggests we simply recognize that cheaters are going to cheat. “If your husband can’t stop eyeing his co-workers, does that mean he ought to quit working? And if your wife is cheating with her gym buddy, does that mean that exercising is to blame?”
Ultimately, Twitter and Facebook are not to blame for anyone’s relationship problems. The blame lies with the person in the relationship, violating the terms of that relationship. Let’s not give cheaters an excuse by making scapegoats of our social networks.