A new series of studies out of OKCupid’s data-crunching love labs reveal daily Twitter users have shorter relationships than those who don’t – 5 to 10 per cent shorter. This makes sense. Twitter might turn us into more annoying, vain mates.
Across all ages, the data – sampling over 800,000 OKC users – saw appreciable dips in relationship length among avid tweeters. So what’s behind this trend? Does a fast-paced, wham-bam see ya never lifestyle just jibe with the 140-character interlocutor? Is it as simple as OKCupid cofounder Christian Rudder’s assessment that “People who tweet live their life in shorter bursts”? That’s part of it. But it’s not enough.
Yes, the internet is probably ravaging our attention spans, and those used to expressing themselves (and absorbing the thoughts of others) in tiny fragments might prove to be statistically more frustrating partners than those who, I don’t know, write long letters to each other? But there’s more to the story of Twitter’s finger in the eye of the average love life. Anything you use every day transforms you – gradually, slightly, yes – but profoundly.
Twitter is, though at times a phenomenally useful tool, largely a society of vanity and attention-mongering. We tweet into an abyss, hoping, manically, to be noticed. To be retweeted. To be followed. The scoreboard effect of quantifying our popularity and influence on Twitter only makes it more addictive. The more self-affirmation we want, the more we crave – more followers, more retweets, more mentions, more attention. And so we continue to dump throwaway witticisms and rapid-typed quips, radiating them outward to an anonymous mass, just hoping to be noticed and appreciated in the most superficial manner. The genuine, personal, engaging conversations that occur on Twitter are the exception – naked self-affirmation and preening is the rule. Just ask John Mayer, who was reportedly axed by Jennifer Aniston over his incessant tweets.
So should it surprise anyone that 800,000 people who’ve taken to this habit might be training themselves to be worse boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses and friends with benefits? What do we want in a partner? Reciprocity. Mutual attention, mutual respect, mutual appreciation and dialogue. Twitter is, for the most part, the antithesis of these things – unidirectional, cold and vain.
Now, let’s not get carried away. Twitter isn’t going to wreck your relationships on its own. And the relationship difference between those who chase the hashtag and those who don’t was only 10 per cent tops. But as more and more of us use this technology more and more, it’s important that we think of how it’s shaping our brains – because really, results like this are unsurprising by now. [OK Cupid via DailyBeast]