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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is Social Media Ruining Our Relationships?

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 8:55 AM


I've been twirting (is there a better word for Twitter flirting?) with this guy for a couple of months now. I know him from work; we're friends with good chemistry. It's a lot of fun, and the tweets have delicious sexual tension undertones, but nothing too overt or explicit. He has a girlfriend who I've met a couple of times, though, and I would imagine she's seen his replies to me. It struck me that she could possibly ask to follow me (my tweets are locked). If this were to happen, what should I do? I guess I could go back and delete the tweets, though that would look suspicious. Or I could not accept her follower request, which may also look suspicious. Thoughts?


There's no good name for Twitter flirting that I've heard of, but every other word possible is better than calling it "twirting," except perhaps "The David Copperfield." (Don't Google that, Mom.) I wouldn't worry too much about it, Tweetheart. Twitter flirting is relatively harmless, especially if your account is set to private, and it would take a lot of effort on her part to scroll back through the history of her boyfriend's and your tweets to find incriminating twevidence.

It's up to you, of course, whether to accept her follow if it comes up, but if you do, then you can most likely kiss those delicious sexual undertones goodbye, if that makes a difference.

Your question raises another issue I've been pondering lately about how social media influences our relationships, which OkCupid conveniently brought up yesterday in its geektastic data blog, OkTrends. It found that people who use Twitter every day evidently have shorter relationships.


Of the chart, OkCupid staffers write: "Frequent tweeters have shorter real-life relationships than everyone else, probably via some hack." (Ed's note: I assure you, gentlemen, it's not the size of your URL that counts.) "Unfortunately, we have no way to tell who's dumping who here; whether the twitterati are more annoying or just more flighty than everyone else."

A 5 to 10 percent decrease in relationship length isn't terribly shocking, but as Christian Rudder, the site's cofounder and editorial director said on The Daily Beast. "What that tells us is obvious. People who Tweet live their life in shorter bursts."

OkCupid doesn't take the time to offer explanation or analysis for the graph, which I find somewhat ironic. Perhaps they thought our A.D.D.-prone minds would zone out on anything more than a tweetable sound bite.

If it's a contest, though, I'd say Facebook, by virtue of its size and the sheer volume of personal information we put on it, is by far the greater relationship ruiner, and not just because a handful of people have been shot or stabbed due to wayward wall posts.

Jealousy over Twitter flirting did come up in my last relationship, though, which is kind of funny because the "girl" in question turned out to be fake (#longstory). At least the experience inspired my memoir, I Still Love You, Wilford Brimley! Some people claim that Twitter has made their relationships better, as this USA Today commenter attests: "I met my boyfriend (of going on two years) via Twitter. Twittering enhances our relationship, because I get to know the gist of his daily activities -- meeting a friend for coffee, at the office late -- without having to be that annoying girlfriend who asks where he is all day." 

The Internet may be making us dumb, sick, and rude, but I'd be hard-pressed to believe it's causing demonstrable chasms in our relationships, unlike MIT psychologist Sherry Turkel, who writes in her book Alone Together: "We're using inanimate objects to convince ourselves that even when we're alone, we feel together. And then when we're with each other ... "


Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF
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Anna Pulley


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