YOU, YOUR DIVORCE, THE HOLIDAYS, AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Six important questions you should answer
With the holidays upon us, it seems that those going through a breakup are particularly touchy this time of year. In many cases, having to share the children, time with extended family, and also the friends you once enjoyed together, is hard to manage, emotionally. Often, couples are angry during such a sensitive time and it's natural to want to vent those feelings, especially anger. The problem today, though, is that upset ex-spouses tend to turn to social media to do so. They typically find it hard to resist the urge to use social media as a platform--both literally and figuratively--as they try to work through their hurt, disappointment, and anger.
Many of my clients get themselves into hot water over what they post and circulate this time of year because the comments they post can and have been used against them in a court of law. What that means is if someone posts, "I hate my ex. He never brings the kids back on time and he's going to be sorry," that could be construed as a threat. The court doesn't like that! And, it doesn't stop there: People also tend to post disparaging remarks not only about their ex's, but their former in-laws, and the ex's new significant other. If you are one of those who is plugged in and using social media platforms throughout the day, beware. If you're posting blurbs about your rawest of feelings, not only do you engender more tension and animosity with your ex, you also run the risk of alienating the very people from whom you need support--your children, in-laws, employers and friends.
The following is a list of questions to ask yourself before you hit the "publish" prompt on any social media platform.
1. How would you react to seeing your post in the New York Times?: This has become a standard benchmark as a reference to 'think before you speak," these days. Most everyone has tried to make that point. One way to have this admonishment hit hard is to take the draft of your post and blow it up 200 percent. Take a look at it. It will appear as a huge headline (e.g. MY EX IS A PHILANDERER). Do you really want such a comment(s) plastered world-wide where everyone can see it? It is possible it could go viral.
2. Do you want to invade your own privacy? You can do so by telling all your Facebook friends, in vivid detail, the many ways your spouse bullied you once you told him you were leaving him. Bad idea! Do you want everyone in on that intimate stuff? Don't forget that postings can be shared to a "friend's" friends. So when tempted to give a blow-by-blow description of the big quarrel you had with your ex when telling him to his face your reasons for leaving him, know that it can be shared and re-shared. Many times. Protect your privacy.
3. Should you find another way to vent? Of course! Never do it writing, whether it is a quick tweet, a text, email or social media posting. Flinging your range of emotions "out there" (e.g., "I spent the whole day crying again, because....") is like tossing out negative confetti which can scatter all over the world-wide Web. This leaves you exposed and vulnerable to all types of issues; legal ones included. So, when you blast out a tweet that says, "#Sorry I picked so-and-so to be the mother of my kids. They deserve better," you affirm that social media is not a good forum for disgorging your frustration. Scream into the mirror (when you are home alone) to rid yourself of your angst, or better yet, call a trusted friend, your spiritual adviser, therapist; or attend a divorce support group for relief and where you can vent all you want! I had one client who spent years trying to get past her breakup. She booked daily appointments, Monday through Friday from Thanksgiving until mid-January with her therapist. It helped.
4. Should you worry about retribution? Yes, you certainly should. Once you start a social media war with your ex, you never know when or if it will end. If tensions are already running high and they worsen over the holiday season on both sides, it would not be unusual for the offended party to launch a verbal assault missile of his own via social media. The only advantage you might have is a better defense in court, if you need one. If you both are engaging in a tit-for-tat negative repartee, you may be scolded by the judge. He is not likely to side with either of you, unless there are threats or content that could harm or compromise the safety or well being of the parties or the children. However, if your ex is exceptionally retaliatory, don't allow her to suck you into that dynamic. Don't give her reason to retaliate by blasting or embarrassing you on social media. In the words of Elsa, "Let it go."
5. Will what I post harm the children; others, in any way? You bet, and negative posts will also compromise your reputation and take a nick out of your self-esteem. When you say something verbally to your ex in person or on the phone--make some stinging remark--the memory of it or impact may fade over time. It's likely the children will forget having heard it, too. However, once you write the same remark and share it online it becomes etched; it's permanent and can be read over and over again by many people who don't even know you. It is easy for relatives or friends of your children to come upon these negative postings by you about your ex, which can cause them deep humiliation. Always ask if what you are posting will hurt your children, friends and family.
6. How might my postings affect my job? Your current or potential employer may stumble upon some negative postings as they search your background. Let's say you post a salacious "get-back-at-ex-with-another-guy" video on YouTube and send the link to your husband. Short of a court order, it will remain there. If you have the good sense to mark it "private," that may help, though the temptation is to seek vengeance by threatening an ex that you will re-label the post "public" or "unlisted." You certainly don't want such a video showing up at the "office."
If there are other reasons you can think of that will help you curb your social media impulses, write them down. Revisit that list (and the questions above) to keep you in check. Doing so will keep you out of the regret department! My motto: "Think before you click."