Breakups can be predicted through monitoring online language

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  • A recent study shows one can predict when a person is going to break up with their partner
  • Researchers found that it can be done through analysing language used online
  • It was found that breakups can be predicted three months before the actual split 

A breakup with a romantic partner can be a shocking and traumatic experience, and is often totally unexpected. Social scientists from the University of Texas at Austin have identified a unique way to detect signs that a person may be looking to break up with their partner.

The ‘language signatures’ of breakups

The team of researchers conducted a study in order to establish whether a breakup can be predicted by using data collected from the social media platform, Reddit, with focus on shifts in language before and after the breakup.

In order to achieve their goal, the team tracked 6 803 people on the subreddit forum who admitted to going through a breakup. The posts of these users from up to a year before the breakup were examined for any clues hinting at an impending breakup.

The researchers noted that by doing so, they “tracked people’s social, cognitive, and emotional lives as they dealt with the breakup of a close intimate relationship”.

Language shifts

“Language markers of an impending breakup were evident three [months] before the event, peaking on the week of the breakup and returning to baseline [six months] later,” the researchers said.

One of the patterns in language researchers looked at was the use of pronouns such as “I”, which researchers relate to an individual focusing more on themselves due to sadness and depression.

“The analysis of subtle shifts in pronouns, articles, and other almost invisible words can reveal the psychological effects of life experiences,” the authors wrote in their paper.

The researchers noted that the time a person spent posting about their breakup was an indication of how they were coping. 

“People who posted about their breakup for longer time periods were less well-adjusted a year after their breakup, compared to short-term posters.”

The scientists emphasised the importance of this study by describing the internet as a laboratory for testing how employing different coping mechanisms – such as posting online – can help people through a difficult time.

Image credit: Pexels

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