"I'll take kids nxt wknd. Getting remarried, btw"

As a society we fret a lot about the distance created by all the technology swallowing up our time, our kids, our lives. Are we more isolated? Are we less intimate? Are we losing key social graces and communication skills?

Maybe. Probably. No doubt.

Those of us on the divorce spectrum have to navigate some rocky communications. The process of separating or divorcing, or who have recently done so, the distance and detachment offered by technology give you a safe demilitarized zone in which to conduct the business of tearing yourselves asunder while rebuilding your parenting partnership.  

When my parents – and the parents of nearly all of my friends – split in the divorce boom of the late 1970's, communication meant tense, terse phone calls, angry meetings, child-support checks ferried by the kids; unpleasant in-person or phone contact for every issue that came up. The daily details of what you needed for school, where you were staying, who is taking you to the dentist, did anybody sign the permission slip? All of those questions required interactions between parents who could barely stand the sight of each other. As kids we ran interference between our parents asking for clarification on this or that, editing out expletives or harrumphs, tears or rolling eyes to deliver the various messages daily divorced life required.

No Emoticons Required

But not today. Today you can shoot your ex a quick text about this or that, no emotion, or emoticons, necessary. Dismal divorce details can be dispatched with quickly, without the whole 27-minute fight you would have had if you'd conducted the encounter in person or on the phone. Let's be honest, especially in the early stages of divorce, we're all a little hyper-sensitive and roiling with rage just beneath the surface. Any slight whiff of a tone or an almost but not quite imperceptible sigh….He's doing that thing again, that whole holier-than-me judgmental thing with his eyebrows! I mean I can totally hear him do that thing with his eyebrows over the phone. Can't you?

When we're all a tad touchy about who forgot to pack lunch or who was late to pick up somebody or who cancelled the weekend somebody was counting on….it's hard to make the polite conversation required for such fraught social intercourse.

Am On My Way….

But not today.

Today you can keep track of the kids' schedules via a shared Google Calendar. Late for a parent-teacher conference? Instant message your ex to let her know you're on your way. You can text each other daily for updates, schedule changes, all of the basic daily details of dismantling your marriage and/or co-parenting your kids can be handled with almost no human contact! A quick Facebook status update and he knows you're a few minutes late. A few keystrokes to the Blackberry and you know he's taking the kids for dinner. Heck, you can tweet the twit!

A New Divorce Demilitarized Zone?

How does this play in today's divorce? Is this new Divorce Demilitarized Zone a good thing?

I think the technology reduces the potential for those minefield moments when you think you're simply asking him to pick her up from band practice but somehow you and your ex end up (you) sobbing in the Subway parking lot, rehashing every wound from your 12 years together? I mean, you can go from 0 to 60 in about a millisecond, right?

New Media Questions for Age-Old Issues

Does the depersonalized exchange of information made possible by technology lessen the potential for anxiety by easing the method of communication? Or not? Emails and text messages can be misread. Humor can read like an insult. In some ways, these messages can be filled in with your own meanings like an ink blot test. Does it reduce the chance for kind human interaction that reminds us we're still parents, we're still lifetime partners in the greatest mission possible. Does it make almost anonymous what should be intimate? Do social media and technology delete the chance for creating good will? Or do they create space necessary for peace? 

About the Author

Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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