Technology and social media have changed all aspects of our lives, and divorce is no different. There are both legal and emotional reasons to be cautious of social media during divorce. I’m not saying you have to be completely unplugged, as appealing as that may sound at times, but to be aware of potential consequences of your social media activity.
Technology is everywhere. First, I will point out that I’m a psychologist, not a lawyer. This is not legal advice, rather a caution to all going through a divorce, especially a litigious divorce. Next, I want you to consider all the forms of technology you use: cell phones (text, GPS), email, internet searches, and social media sites to name a few.
Don’t incriminate yourself. Each of these forms of communication can provide a lawyer with potentially incriminating evidence. Pictures of an expensive vacation can call into question why you applied to lower your maintenance payments, being tagged in partying pictures can be used in painting a negative picture for parenting issues, and I don’t need to elaborate on the issues associated with dating websites.
Social media is a permanent log of your life. Each time you post on social media, you are essentially creating a diary of everything you have been doing. While most of it is harmless, remember that some of it can be taken out of context and may not create the image you want as you go through the divorce process.
When considering the social/emotional ramifications of social media, you want to be both aware of the impact to yourself and the impact on your relationships.
Unrealistic Comparisons. With respect to impact on your own emotions, consider the impact of seeing the very selective postings of other people. No one posts their messy house or fight with their spouse online. Almost everyone going through a divorce experiences it as a personal crisis with many painful emotions. Given the nature of the struggles you are likely to experience during your divorce, do you really want to scroll through the sanitized postings of everyone’s “perfect” life, or will this create a sense of alienation? Be gentle with yourself and limit social media if it leaves you feeling worse about your situation.
There are no “take-backs” on social media. You also need to be aware of how your posts will be read by many people. It is easy to vent online as a quick release for angry or hurt feelings after a painful interaction with your ex-spouse. It is harder to repair the damage that comes from such posts. When your ex, your family, your friends, your community, and potentially your children see your posts, you can’t “unsay” something.
Maintaining Privacy. Another consideration is maintaining privacy. Consider how your children would feel if all their friends’ parents read a snarky post about their mother/father or the details of their parents’ divorce.
Divorcing with Integrity. Social media is like any other choice point during your divorce, and you can choose to take the high road. Acting with integrity will feel better in the long run. Venting may be satisfying in the moment, but can keep you stuck in the hurts of the past instead of moving toward a healthier future. The way you choose to divorce will be part of your personal narrative and your children’s family story forever, so consider how you want to think back on this painful time in your life.
Like so many things, there is both an upside and a downside to social media. During a divorce, be cautious of your posts to protect yourself both legally and emotionally. Also, consider face-to-face support over Facebook support so you can connect with real people for the extra support you will need during this difficult process.