THE BLOG

Could Twitter Ruin Our Relationships?

04/13/2014 10:43 EDT | Updated 06/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Last year I was advised to get with the social media program and develop a Twitter following if I was ever going to make it as a relationship writer. So now I tweet with promiscuous abandon, following random strangers and celebs in the hopes they will return the favour (I'm still waiting, Samantha Bee!).

Things were going great in my Twitter-world until I read a recent study by Russell Clayton at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. His research findings stopped me dead in my tracks. He concluded that frequent Twitter use is linked to infidelity, break-ups and even divorce. This is bad news for me.

My brand as a relationship writer is based on my solid 25-year marriage. If I ruin my marriage because of Twitter over-usage, my street cred will be sunk. But if I don't tweet I will have a tougher time fulfilling my professional aspirations.

I'm damned if I do, and I'm damned if I don't. What's a girl to do?

Clayton's study mentioned 2life, an app designed to help couples connect and organize their life together. As it happens, I contribute to 2life's blog and online magazine. So I reached out. I tweeted Diane Hall, the CEO of 2life, and begged her to tell me how to work through my dilemma, and not let my use of social media be to the detriment of my relationship. She thinks it boils down to three pieces of advice:

Don't lose your partner in the crowd. With social media, our partners can too easily become just another follower or "friend" lost in the crowd. "It is like being at a 24/7 party, but your partner is on the other side of the room, or at a different party altogether," Diane cautions. Dedicating too much time to sharing with the masses, while forgetting to share the private content that deepens our relationship -- lists of restaurants we want to try, places we want to travel, or photos of our children -- poses a risk.

Stay focused. Because many of us are glued to our mobile devices, apps like Twitter can become a major distraction. Diane says that while there will always be another ping vying for our attention, we need to avoid compulsive behaviour. It is difficult to remain present and listen fully to our partners if we are constantly checking Twitter or other social media. And who wants to feel they are less important than a tweet? Sometimes you just have to unplug.

Manage technology, don't let it manage you. It is easy to be seduced by technology, especially apps with too much flash and not enough substance. Technology should work for us -- not vice-versa. Diane says that technology should not hijack a relationship. Apps that help us organize our lives better as a couple, and help us plan more face-to-face time rather than more screen time, are the type of tools that are worth our attention.

Who would have thought something as innocuous as Twitter could be the very thing that brings our generation of lovers down? It's time to stand up to the dark forces of social media and leverage them to our relationship advantage.

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