No matter if it’s “amicable” or a battle royale, the process is grueling, emotionally taxing, and in the age of digital media—horribly public.
If the legal documents, division of property, and emotions were not enough, today’s relational landscape includes navigating the ins-and-outs of social media as well!
Today, more and more couples dissolving their marriages in their 30s and 40s are opting to go to social media to air their grievances, preserve their reputations, or simply announce the divorce to their friends, family, and acquaintances.
Recently, I went through a divorce. We had fairly pronounced social media presences, but my former spouse and I decided that we would not be announcing our divorce on social media. We decided that we would be as discreet as possible throughout the process.
Even with this tacit agreement, the social media sites we were part of became ground-zero for other people to speculate, snoop, and stay in touch. People would notice that some photos were removed or a relationship status changed or that someone had moved and a message would arrive inevitably inquiring, “what happened?”
For a year, I found myself responding to Facebook messages, copying-and-pasting the same details about the divorce to each and every individual who reached out.
On top of the seemingly endless messages others used social media to try to “figure things out” or “get dirt” on what was going down. What I discovered was that even seemingly innocent posts were interpreted in the worst ways. Some folks believed I was an injured animal in need of pity. Others assumed I was a freewheeling divorcée living the high life in single-city.
The truth was, I was healing with the support of friends, family, my church community, and a wonderful counselor. I never posted a single thing in relation to my divorce, its proceedings, or the emotions I was going through. Nor did I feel I needed to.
That doesn’t mean people didn’t read into every post, picture, or pondering I put up on social media interpreting it in every direction as they sought to understand my life from afar.
On the one hand, I get it. Increasingly, social media is where our lives play out for others to see (or, at least, what we want them to see). It’s how we share our joys and sorrows, our vacations and favorite movies, our ultrasound images and wedding videos.
Why not our divorce process? In many ways, divorces, no matter how private we want them to be, will inevitably be played out in the public venue that is social media. And so, with that in mind, here are five things I can share if you find yourself in that situation:
- Consider leaving —although it may seem like you’re traveling back to the 80s, it could be a good call to remove yourself from social media. This way, you can be 100% confident that you won’t have to live out your divorce in the digital world. Plus, the 80s weren’t all that bad…save for the mullets—the mullets were a travesty.
- Embrace the support — while social media can be a weird, and even unsafe, place in the midst of a divorce, it can also be a platform to find a rich network of support — from professional resources to conversations with friends. I know I enjoyed hearing from so many loved ones throughout the process. Each time I talked with someone I felt lighter and happier. Yes, you’ll have to explain it to multiple people, but it’ll create opportunities for transparency, processing, and re-connecting with folks from the past.
- Embrace the strange — with that said, there are some strange situations that emerge during this time. From the latecomers who only put two-and-two together a year after things have gone down, to the people putting their noses in where they shouldn’t, learn to embrace the weird stuff that comes your way. You have to, for your own sanity. And because Facebook hasn’t introduced an “awkward” button yet.
- Pay attention to legal stuff — I hate to say this, but if you are going through a process of litigation, you need to be aware of how what you post on social media can quickly become evidence, whether it’s warranted or not. So, check your privacy settings, think twice about everything you want to post, contemplate your friends and connections, and never share any attorney-client or counselor-client details.
- Consider going public (look to 10 tips) — even though I would suggest not making a very private matter more public than it has to be, you may consider just going public in the first place. If you do, here’s a blog that gives you 10 tips for going public with your divorce in an age of social media.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on divorce from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.