"Similar to the Miranda rights, be aware that anything post or tweet can be used against you in the court of law."
In a world of instant information, social media provides the necessary medium in technological communication. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat and beyond, the need to connect with one another has never been more culturally valued. In cases of divorce and separation, this medium of connection can determine one’s well-being and the well-being of their children.
Social media can create an impulse to communicate one’s activities to others. In employing the medium to do so, evidence of one’s activities is being created, that can later be used in litigation. This can discredit one’s testimony and be used as a justification for a higher amount of alimony. It also starts a trail of behavior that, depending on the activities, can sway the judge and the negotiations away from your favor.
Social media also leaves the door open for others to weigh in, on the events of one’s life. As a life event, divorce can create a liberating discussion about the freedoms of moving forward during the difficult times of one’s life. More likely, however, the life event will attract those engaging in what’s referred to as participatory politics.
Participatory politics is the practice of engaging in political discourse through the mass collaboration of social media. Political news postings, birthdays, and new profile photos are some examples of postings that attract the most participatory politics across the social media landscape. Life events, like divorce, create an opportunity for others to weigh in on the stress, trauma and stigma that is often culturally-associated with the event.
The impact of having an audience to your divorce on social media cannot be discounted or quantified, because you simply never know when it will occur. It could be years after the divorce, when you’ve remarried to someone else. It could be in the middle of a heated litigation. It could attract people that opposing counsel might be interested in using as a witness or character witness. The ramifications to one’s proceedings and one’s reputation are a constant unknown.
This impact also extends itself to one’s personal well-being. For someone experiencing the effects of a divorce or a separation, the desire to taper off one’s communication for the well-being of their case could have ripple effects on their communication tendencies as a whole. Researchers at Cornell University are studying the behavior patterns of those facing depression or psychological distress. They’ve found that understanding these behaviors might lead to a greater awareness of how people recognize red flags in social media posts of the distressed.
In the behaviors of those in the process of divorce or separation, recognizing red flags can lead to a better understanding of their well-being. The Public Library of Science (PLOS) published a study from researchers at the University of Michigan, which found that an increase in Facebook use leads to a decrease in self-reported well-being.
Seeking support and taking care of yourself become essential when you’re going through a divorce. The pros and cons of social media can polarize an individual going through a divorce. This can lead them to increase use and decrease their well-being, or decrease their use and furthering their isolation and antisocial tendencies.
Keeping the privacy of divorce or separation proceedings with a significant other can often mean the decrease in what is referred to as social capital. Social capital is often thought of as the social networks and interactions that inspire trust and reciprocity among groups of people. It’s a subjective theory, which goes hand-in-hand with one’s social interactions. The amount and quality of social interactions that one has creates a wealth within one’s social capital. Closing one’s self off social media is to limit one’s potential earnings of social capital, and to divulge too much of one’s self on social media while undergoing divorce litigation is to create ammunition for opposing counsel.
Divorce proceedings require the utmost care and thought put into them, balancing one’s present life with the potential of one’s future. These proceedings are going to require you put them first, and all other social interaction second. Prioritization and balance will give you the peace of mind, knowing that there will not be any surprises coming from social media in your litigation.
That’s not to say you should go without the internet or begin deleting social media accounts, although that is always your prerogative. Similar to the Miranda rights, be aware that any post or tweet can be used against you in the court of law. Your words and actions have consequences on divorce negotiations, so censorship and tempering your behavior temporarily could prove valuable.