Aside from how much money you make, our society gauges your success in life by two main criteria: 1) Whether a fellow human being loves you, and 2) are you a big deal on the internet?
You might think these factors are independent of each other. For example, most of the people who seem like big deals on the internet fail to actually make any money in the real world. But a new study from the University of Michigan, Aalto University and the Qatar Computing Research Institute has linked romantic failure to social media failure, because nobody wants to read a bunch of weepy, emo status messages about how you're a piece of s--t destined to die alone.
Psychological researchers examined 661 unmarried couples' Twitter usage, after whittling the sample set down from 40,000. While they were mostly looking for how partners communicate before and after a breakup, they noticed "a previously undocumented phenomenon...where users who break up experience sudden drops of 15-20 followers and friends."
Yep, tweeting about your heartbreak will cost you 15-20 tweeps, based on an average following of about 300.
One explanation is that the lost followers tend to be one of the partner's friends, only following the other partner "due to social pressure." Another is that an "increased usage of 'depressed' terms after the breakup" is intolerable to everybody else -- here are word clouds comparing the most common tweets between partners before and after a breakup:
(Unsurprisingly, the rejected partner is more likely to use the "depressed" language above than the partner who called it off.)
The researchers also discovered that, in many cases, a breakup can be predicted by Twitter "stonewalling" -- when one partner doesn't reply to the other's tweets, while "the number of messages to other users increases" -- which they observed in nearly 40% of doomed couples, as opposed to 10% of couples that stayed together. The researchers even float the idea of "'early breakup warning' systems" to alert users when they're likely headed for Splitsville.
One person who might not unfollow you, though? Your ex: "[M]aybe surprisingly, 44% of couples still follow each other two weeks after the week of the breakup," the researchers write, "and in another 32% of cases one of the partners still follows the other one at this point." Couples that communicate more frequently on Twitter before a breakup tend to have more interactions afterward, though the tone usually changes from lovey-dovey to scorched earth.
So, you didn't make it to the wedding chapel? That's OK, you'll be @ replying and DMing until death do you part.