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Language left behind on social media exposes the emotional and cognitive costs of a romantic breakup


The researchers in this study tracked people’s social, cognitive, and emotional lives as they dealt with the breakup of a close intimate relationship using language analysis on Reddit. The study found that language markers could detect impending breakups up to three months before they occurred, with continued psychological aftereffects lasting six months after the breakup.


These language shifts were also apparent in subreddits unrelated to relationships, highlighting the pervasive impact of personal upheavals across people’s social worlds. Comparable cognitive and social effects were apparent among people undergoing divorce or dealing with major life secrets.


By analyzing subtle shifts in language, including pronouns, articles, and other almost-invisible words, the researchers demonstrate how these markers reveal the psychological effects of life experiences. The study provides valuable insights into the ways in which people cope with and communicate about intimate relationships, and how these experiences can shape their cognitive and emotional lives. The findings have implications for individuals, mental health professionals, and social media platforms in understanding and supporting individuals during times of personal upheaval.


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