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Marriage, Divorce, and Social Media: A Recipe for Disaster

10 tips on how to use social media to protect yourself during your divorce.

Key points

  • Social media posts can exacerbate the difficult dynamics at play during a divorce.
  • Staying off social media can help divorcing people focus on their family or their own self-care.
  • When posting during divorce, individuals should aim to avoid posting negative content that could invite retaliation or hurt a loved one.

Many studies have shown that social media has a negative effect on marriage. Here are some of the research findings.

A study published in Computers in Human Behavior, found a link between social media use and decreased marriage quality in every model analyzed. The study results predict that people who do not use social media are 11 percent happier in their marriages than people that regularly use social media. (A preoccupation with social media can lead to neglect of the marital relationship.)

Many of my clients have discovered their spouses cheating on social media. According to a study by the Loyola University Health System, Facebook, with more than 2 billion users, is cited in one out of every five divorces in the United States.

And according to the AAML (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers), 81 percent of divorce attorneys report increasing numbers of spouses searching for online evidence when there are suspicions of bad behavior, infidelity, or online affairs.

Social media and how to get through your divorce

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Social media posts show a false reality but it can be triggering when you are in a divorce.
Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Some divorcing people take to social media to vent or rage and to seek support. Others go to social media when in pain. Then they see posts that make them believe that their spouse, and everyone else, is having a great time. (Your spouse probably does the same thing.) Don’t assume that he or she is ecstatic in life based on their Facebook posts. Those "happy" posts can increase your grief, rage, or jealousy.

1. The best advice is to stop using social media during your divorce. If you don’t post anything it won’t trigger your spouse to retaliate. If you can disconnect, you will be able to focus on your own self-care, your children, and other interests. So if you can, get off social media, at least until the divorce is over.

2. If you stay on social media, don’t post anything negative about the other parent or other family members. Don’t use social media to vent. Never post anything when you are upset. Check in with your family about this as well. They can be supportive, but they shouldn’t attack your child’s other parent. What would your children think if they saw what you, or their grandparent, wrote about their other parent? Be aware that your children can see anything you post online. They know how to access it even if you think it is private.

3. Instead, if you really want to post something, post positive images of you doing something you enjoy. Post positive affirmations. Don’t let your ex find out on Facebook or Instagram that you went on vacation with your new partner and your kids.

4. Change your privacy settings to the highest levels. Ask your friends to not tag you in their photos or posts. Even with the highest privacy settings, do not assume that what you say online is truly private. Cyber-stalking or harassing puts you at risk, so “unfriend” or block those with whom you will not be friends after the divorce. If you stay online, know who your friends are, and the people you trust. Unfriend everyone else.

5. Remove your relationship status from your “about me” on Facebook. If you want to add it back in after your divorce is final, you can do it then.

6. Don’t discuss your case online. Even if you and your spouse agree on the narrative of your divorce, and are amicable, don’t share details of your negotiations, settlements, or custody online.

7. Don't look for "dirt" about your spouse online. Some people ask friends to provide negative information about their spouse. This is sure to cause trouble. If you have complaints about your spouse, the other attorney, a mediator, evaluator or the judge, discuss them with your attorney or therapist.

8. Google yourself so you know what is out in cyberspace about you. You may be able to clean up incriminating photos or posts.

9. Don’t post intimate photos or videos from your marriage. It is illegal in many places to post intimate pictures without the other person’s consent and knowledge.

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels
Know what your child does on social media, what they see and what they post.
Source: Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

10. Monitor your children’s social media usage. Know which platforms they use, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok. Ask that they allow you to see their posts. If your children are suffering during the divorce, you will want to know what they are saying. Social media can be damaging to children through online bullying, and online predators. During your divorce, your children are especially vulnerable.

© Ann Gold Buscho, Ph.D. 2021


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