If you worry about your significant other chatting up or being contacted by other virtual hotties on social media, you might not be totally out of line. Keyword: might. A recent study led by doctoral student Russel Clayton, done at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, researched the kinds of links that might exist between Twitter users and rates of infidelity and divorce. (Next up– they should check out Instagram’s Direct Messaging.) The results: those links do exist (duh?). The study polled 581 volunteers and found that those who were active Twitter users reported conflict in relationships with their significant others, which led to instances where one partner was unfaithful to the other, which in turn led to breakups and divorces and general, all-around sad times. (Although, sometimes Twitter can be used to live-Tweet call-out a cheater– Melissa Stetten, we’re looking at you.)
We should take the conclusions drawn from this study with a grain of salt. The study didn’t compare Twitter users to non-Twitter users – it just asked volunteers to disclose information about their Twitter use and how it affected their relationships. So what the study really reveals is that people can use Twitter to cheat, not necessarily that Twitter users are more prone to doing so than the average Joe is.
Basically, people are inventive: if they want to cheat, they will use whatever means they have at their disposal to do so, be those actual means or virtual ones. Also, the glaringly obvious thing to point out here is that people who are already distancing themselves emotionally from their partners in relationships are probably more likely to turn to Twitter and other social media platforms as an escape and to “fill the void” in the first place. It stands to reason that a person in a happy, successful relationship would would be less drawn by the allure of a random person flirting with them online via tweets and “direct messages.” Case in point: there are many single people out there who have never been even slightly interested in their social media suitors, and use social media strictly in the way it was intended to be used. After all, it’s not as if you “catch” a lover on the side by being exposed to other people. It’s not a cold. If that were the case, you could leave the house in the morning, only to come back home in the evening and say “Honey, I’m sorry but I cheated on you today. WITH EVERYONE.”
Before you shut down all of your social media accounts (yeah right, more like before you try to convince your honey bunny to), perhaps you should take a step back and consider your motives. If you’re in constant fear that your man is going to get chatted up by his ex, well, you might be right.
Unless you’re prone to unfounded bouts of paranoia, she probably is operating sneakily behind your back. Even if she’s trying her best to be a flash from the past, that doesn’t mean anything is going to come of it in terms of your partner deciding to cheat on you (what actions constitute cheating, be it “innocent” flirting or full-on doing the donkey kong, is a whole separate beast, though). That’s where trusting your partner to do the right thing comes in. However, a nagging concern about infidelity is either coming from your instincts or stemming from some insecurities you might have about yourself, the relationship, or your partner. Sorting through these feelings and deciding which categories they fall into can be a challenge, but it’s one worth pursuing if it can remove some of the doubts about your relationship that might plague you.