The rapid growth of social media over the past decade has changed the way we communicate with each other, the information that we share and who we share it with. Social media is now an ordinary part of many people’s everyday lives and one inevitable result of this is the impact that it can have upon our closest relationships.
To the cynics, the world of social media offers an inaccurate portrayal of the reality of daily life. In the days before the internet, “keeping up with the Jones” meant pressure to be seen with the latest gadget for the home, a top of the range lawnmower, a new car. Today, “Facebragging”, “sharenting” and the like have taken these social pressures to a whole new level.
Barely a day goes by that I don’t see an image of the “perfect” wedding/sunset/house/baby* (*delete as appropriate) adorning my feed on my social app of choice that day. It is all too easy to become sucked in to the distorted version of reality that social media creates. I am sure most of us have lost many an hour to “Facebook-stalking” and getting lost in a social media void. Unproductive and often thoroughly depressing.
This in turn, this has led to people having unrealistic expectations of their own relationships, from the perfect location for a first date, to the size of the engagement ring, to getting the ultimate wedding photo, to celebrating the achievements of their (seemingly) faultless offspring.
Social media has developed from a way to stay in touch with old friends (whatever happened to Friends Reunited?) to a marketing opportunity for individuals and companies alike. People need to be Insta-ready at all times, in case the perfect photo opportunity presents itself (well, once it’s filtered within an inch of its life). We are constantly bombarded with adverts and idealised images preaching how we should live our lives, characterised by a smattering of hashtags.
For many onlookers, this all too easily leads to an increased sense of dissatisfaction with their own lives, leading to feelings of resentment and discontent, with themselves and with their surroundings.
The pressure of these expectations is, according to the Daily Mail, fuelling more family break ups than ever – apparently one in seven divorces now cite online activities as the cause of marital breakdown.
Top tips for keeping your social media dignity intact on separation
The internet today is a goldmine of information for the tech-savvy family lawyer – one of the first things I do when I take on a case is to look up the other side online, do my research on them, their business, social media activity etc. Building a picture of the family’s dynamics, the type of person we are dealing with helps shape the approach I take to a case.
Most people are relatively unaware of the digital footprint that they leave in their wake, and I have lost count of the number of times this has come back to haunt clients going through divorce proceedings. Social media can for example be the perfect source of evidence of someone living beyond their stated means – going on expensive holidays or nights out.
With this in mind, here are a few tips on how to manage your online persona when going through a separation:
- Don’t air your dirty laundry in public – if you don’t want your ex, your lawyer or (especially) the judge to read it, don’t write it;
- Think before you post – even if you change your mind afterwards, someone may have seen what you have written, taken a screenshot and preserved your words;
- Maintain the moral high ground.- although it is tempting to respond to a deliberately confrontational post, the less obstructive you are, the better – as a Resolution member I always advocate resolving matters in a constructive, non-confrontational way – it is far more effective in the long run.
- Don’t add fuel to the fire – think about what you are posting. Do you need to post anything at all? The less information that is out there, the less ammunition someone has to try to use against you at a future date.
- Think ahead. What image do you want to present of yourself when you look back at this time in your life in 5 years?
- Is going through a separation the perfect time to have a short separation from social media too?
If you still need to fuel your social media addiction however, be sure to check your security settings, and be certain that only those who you want to view your posts can see them. Think about the wider impact of your actions on your children, your ex, your wider family and friends.
Seek support from a friend in real life – meet for a walk or a coffee – confide in one person instead of the whole world.
Finally, it can be a very lonely place, but the internet isn’t all bad. There are a lot of positively helpful resources out there for families going through a separation, such as online support networks, parenting support tools, contact calendars, parenting plans, all of which can help make the process less daunting and more manageable.