Links to a recent study associating active Twitter users with an increased risk of cheating and divorce filled my newsfeed yesterday. The study shows a direct correlation between heavy Twitter use and the likelihood of divorce across age ranges. Many of the pieces that featured the study implied that romantic or sexual interactions on the social media platform were the precipitating factor in the end of the union.
But I’m not so sure it’s that straightforward.
You see, our brains are not that different than mice in a lab. We like rewards. And technology has capitalized on that part of human drive and motivation. You gets levels and badges for succeeding in a game on your phone, you get a buzz or chime every time someone contacts you and, on most social media, you vie for likes and shares. Each of those interactions is like giving the proverbial mouse a treat, eliciting a release of dopamine in the brain. And, just like a mouse that receives too much cheese, those electronic rewards fatten us as well. We become accustomed to that higher level of stimulation.
And real life, including real marriage, doesn’t offer neurochemical rewards on such a frequent basis.
But cheating does.
The risks and newness of an affair bring with it an increased production in dopamine, rewarding the cheater for his or her indiscretions.
So maybe the problem isn’t really found in flirty Tweets. Maybe the problem is that we’re training our brains to require an unnatural level of rewards. And then it becomes all too easy to seek the desired attention elsewhere.
Unless your spouse has a gold star chart for on the fridge. Who knows? Maybe that will become the new affair prevention technique:)