BBC Radio 4 discussed social media and divorce on this morning’s Woman’s Hour. So what part does social media play in divorce and what can you do to protect yourself from unpleasantness in the online world during a break-up?
Sharing your life on social media is becoming more and more popular, particularly with younger generations. Many people do not think twice about telling the world what they have had for lunch, how far they’ve just run or the funny thing their cat has just done. Many people also happily share photos of themselves and their partner on dates and have a very public relationship. This can be catastrophic if the relationship breaks down.

Not only can some break-ups be very public due to social media use, but there is also a growing rise in ‘revenge porn’ and other online revenge actions against ex-partners. Social media can agitate the suspicion that can surround break-ups and lead to one member of the relationship either boasting about how good they feel, or turning to social media for sympathy from friends. If both parties have mutual friends then a person’s Facebook feed can constantly remind them of their ex-partner as they receive updates on what they are doing.

Many people mention social media during the divorce process. It may have had some part to play in the break-up, either as a cause or symptom. One party may have used social media in order to arrange to meet with someone they are having an affair with, or they could have engaged in public and flirtatious conversations, making their partner feel under-mined. It is not uncommon for people to vent angers and frustration about their relationship on Facebook or Twitter which will only make the tensions with their partner worse.

Social media clauses in pre-nuptial agreements are becoming common in America, but are untested here, where pre-nuptial agreements are still relatively rare. For most couples a statement I a pre-nuptial agreement about what can and can’t be put on social media, in the event of a divorce, along with financial penalties will seem like a very extreme measure at the start of a marriage. If you do get a pre-nuptial agreement then confidentiality causes are not uncommon, which could be interpreted as including social media.

The best way to protect yourself from unnecessary hurt and distress from social media when going through a break-up or a divorce is to not get into the habit of publicising details during your relationship. This way you will have less to come back and bite you if things do go wrong. Very little good comes from broadcasting your hurt through public channels. It is better to phone a close friend when you need to. You are likely to offend your friends when they find out that you haven’t gone straight to them in the first place.

Social media is still adapting and evolving and it is a very new way of communication which we humans have not quite caught up with yet. Use it wisely in every aspect of your relationship and don’t forget that you can always switch it off.

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