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Connected and contented? Secrets and suspicion make social media a potential relationship minefield

View profile for Amanda Rimmer
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Unhappiness not sufficient grounds for divorve

The world has been overtaken by social media, Facebook, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter and – apparently – ‘WhatsApp’.

Today, many people’s personal lives are being played out publicly, marriages, separations and divorces. There is no doubt that all of this is playing a significant role in family life. 

We have seen an ever increasing reference to social media in relationship breakdown. There is a general view that social media sites like Facebook make it easier for temptation and infidelity within a relationship – the available pool of potential new partners and the ability to communicate very easily and secretly all appear to be taking their toll.

The clear indication is that normal family life is potentially being affected by our modern way of communicating. It is not only about the volume of time spent online but also the nature of the activities. What is your partner actually doing when they are spending hours glued to their smartphone, tablet or computer?

Upset in relationships is caused by seeing contact taking place with an ex or just others, secret messages taking place or sending inappropriate images.  It can be something simple like finding yourself locked out of the site without warning that can increase the stress in family life.  The research suggests that 15% of those asked considered that social media was indeed a danger to their relationship with top of the list being Facebook, then WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram.

This is not meant to be “a beat up social media day”. There is no doubt about the many positives these facilities have suddenly opened up for us -  being able to keep in touch with Aunt Sal in Australia, having face to face time with the children at bedtime when you are on a shift or organising a get together with a simple click of a button are all great attributes.  The flip side can be how it affects your family and who or what it brings into the sanctity of your home?

Postings on social media can find their way into divorce proceedings.  There are many divorcing spouses who feel that activity on social media has contributed to a relationship breakdown and are citing it in their petitions.

There also appears to be a growing trend of partners venting their frustrations at each other or generally to the world.   There are regular articles written in the press of the comedic goings on with social media between those caught cheating and those who are scorned. Revenge seems to be a dish best served up as publically as possible – and what is better than being viewed by the hundreds of millions of Facebook users?

But what is the real effect of such behaviour? It’s likely to be fairly long lasting because it is there for all to see in print but more importantly how does it impact upon the children? 

What might appear to be an amusing campaign of getting your own back or forcibly putting forward your point of view could be seen as unacceptable harassment resulting in a significant impact upon the person at whom it is directed.  These situations can escalate and result in serious consequences with partners finding themselves on the wrong end of a police complaint or a court application.  If there are sufficient concerns about what is being posted on social media sites, a court can make orders about its future use which can include preventing information being posted.

Using social media to get back at a partner hardly ever ends well for a family.

Social media is by its very nature – social.  This means that lots of people can see it and access it.  As soon as information is posted it becomes available to a wide network of people, potentially all over the world.  This can include people that you may not know or people that you may not realise can get access to your personal information.

That information can be used against you and can be shown to professionals who may be making decisions about your future – including a court.  This is happening more and more.  There needs to be careful thought about how you use it.  Be sensible.  If you think that information could be used against you, don’t post it.  Think twice about putting pictures online if you don’t want people to see what you have been doing or which might cause you or your family embarrassment.  Don’t post insulting or offensive comments about your partner or anyone on “the other side” of any family dispute.  Our experience is that this will not reflect well on you. 

Don’t post anything online about court proceedings.  Your case is private and confidential and details should not be shared with anyone outside it.  

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