SWINDON, ENGLAND -- Online social networks, such as MySpace and Facebook, are great for bringing people together. But evidence is showing that they can also tear marriages apart. Not only does the ready access to numerous other people tempt husbands and wives to have an affair via the Internet; it also makes it easier for their partners to catch them.
Divorce-Online.co.uk, a divorce reference source for England and Wales, claims to have found in recent research that no less than one in five divorce petitions mention Facebook. More and more divorce documents cite flirtatious or erotic messages on Facebook pages as evidence of an affair.
"I had heard from my staff that there were a lot of people saying they had found out things about their partners on Facebook," Mark Keenan, the website's Managing Director, told London-based newspaperThe Daily Telegraphlast month, "and I decided to see how prevalent it was. I was really surprised to see 20% of all the petitions containing references to Facebook. The most common reason seemed to be people having inappropriate sexual chats with people they were not supposed to."
One British woman even found out about her impending divorce via Facebook last February. Accrington, Lancashire conference organizer Emma Brady, 35, read, "Neil Brady has ended his marriage to Emma Brady," on her husband's status update. TheDaily Maildubbed the story as the "world's first divorce by Facebook".
According to theTelegraph, some computer companies are now selling software that will allow users to secretly monitor their partners' Internet activity.
The U.K. isn't the only country where Facebook and similar sites are complicating divorce, of course. In June,TIME Magazine reported on the trend of American divorcing couples airing their dirty laundry on Facebook, as well as divorce lawyers bringing messages and wall posts into cases as evidence.
According to recent U.K.statistics, about 40% of marriages in the country are failing, although the rate has dropped over the past several years.