Whether we like it or not, social media has become a huge part of our lives. Even those who try to ‘stay off it’ can find themselves unwittingly on it .. caught in a photo that has been posted, shared, tweeted or tagged for all to see, often completely without their knowledge. It is almost unmanageable. And never can it be more quietly destructive than during your separation.

Every couple separates differently. Some people are sharers, they talk to anyone who will listen about their breakup because it helps them process it and they need validation or the opinions of others. Whilst many are far more private and cringe at the thought of airing their dirty washing in public. Whichever one you are, it is important to manage social media carefully so no-one involved is unnecessarily upset or aggravated through this delicate process.

It is vital, yet easy to create a passive social media presence that will not be destructive to your divorce. Here are our tips on how to go about it.

HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA DURING YOUR DIVORCE

Think before posting

It really is as simple as thinking before hitting the post button. Prepare your post and then check it. Could it upset anyone who may see it? Your ex-partner, your children or friends who are awkwardly divided over your divorce? Perhaps you can edit it, change the photo, or simply not post? Yes, social media is all about the here and now, and you may feel annoyed you are unable to post freely, but this is a temporary measure and once your separation has settled you can post on a whim once more.

Consider your (tech savvy) kids

If your children are old enough to have their own social media accounts, you may think they are way too cool to care what their parents are doing. But you never know what will end up in their feed or be shared with them by friends. Seeing a photo of mum or dad joyously celebrating their breakup while they are still coming to terms with it, is not fair on them. Remember our kids are far more social media savvy than us. You may think your post is safe from them .. but they seem to have ways beyond our means to access anything!

Take it with a pinch of salt

Social media has become so much more than just a ‘chat and share’ space. It is a world platform where we can re-invent ourselves with very little effort. In fact, it is so effortless, that many people don’t even realise they are doing it. Many people only post the best bits of their life because they want to portray that they have a wonderful life. For this reason, it is important not to dwell too much on the picture of your ex doing formation water skiing with six bikini-clad beach babes. The chances are the image has been digitally enhanced, or two seconds after the photo was taken he fell off, hurt his hip and made a fool of himself. You will possibly never know, so don’t drive yourself mad with it.

The dreaded relationship status

To the old-school Facebook users out there, beware your relationship status! Changing it has more power then you will ever know. It is not unknown for people to divorce with dignity, only to flip when their exes Facebook relationship status changes. Whether it’s from married to single, or from single to ‘in a relationship’ the emotional impact can hit alarmingly hard. If you are amicable with your ex, suggest changing your statuses at the same time, so one of you isn’t left out in the cold .. or wishing they had done it first!

Respect each other’s healing process

It is often the case that one person is more comfortable with the relationship split than the other. We all process change and heal differently, and at different speeds. You may be cracking open the champagne and planning the divorce party, but if your ex is feeling the pain, be considerate. We are not saying you can’t crack open the champagne and plan the divorce party, just don’t post it on social media, even if your ex doesn’t follow you. A screen shot takes a millisecond and a ‘friend’ might like the drama of sharing the image where you would rather it wouldn’t be seen.

Prepare yourself for Facebook memories

Thank you Facebook for your cute little reminders of where you were and what you were doing seven years ago. It’s good to know .. sometimes. Other times, it can trigger painful memories or moments you are working hard to forget. Luckily Facebook gives us the option of disabling this feature, which we would highly recommend if your separation is still raw and even marginally painful for you.

Don’t share your troubles with the world

Divorce is an emotional rollercoaster. With so much to plan with the person you have decided you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with, it is not unusual to occasionally wish your ex would take long walk off a short pier. But please, keep it to yourself. Aggressive, derogatory posts, as well as vents, rants and general bad-mouthing are not a good look, especially on social media. People don’t log on to hear your problems, and you might find your follower list depletes.

Social medial and family law do not mix

For all its quirky, casual feel, it is worth noting that in a family dispute, anything that you post on social media may be used as evidence against you in court. What may seem to be a harmless post, could come back to haunt you. And anything violent or threatening can be used as grounds for your ex to seek an Intervention Order against you. If you are in doubt don’t post. Remember, anything you put online stays online, it is a permanent move that could backfire. If you feel you are in danger of negatively posting, we advise you stay off social media all-together.

Simply block and unfollow

It may seem extreme, but if you are worried about getting upset or wound-up by your ex’s social media stories, just unfollow them. Or if you would rather they didn’t see what you post, then block them. You are going through a separation so it makes perfect sense to tether your online ties at the same time. It doesn’t have to be forever. Many couples build beautiful friendships once the stress of the breakup has cleared. If you reach the point where you chose to become ‘social media buddies’ again it would be a great feeling. But for now, keep social media for those cute puppy GIF’s and face your separation head-on in the real world.

Posted by Belinda Eldridge B.Com. LLB CA
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