While social media is often viewed as a way to make new friends with people you have something in common with, a mounting body of evidence is accumulating that social media is bad for people in a relationship.
Things can get even worse for those who are married because their social media mistakes may trigger suspicion, stir up arguments, and even be grounds for a divorce.
Although it may sound rather extreme to say that social media can precipitate a divorce, divorce lawyer Stephen Bishop explains how it is possible:
“Recent studies have found that as many as 1 in 7 divorces these days are caused in part by some sort of social media interaction. In some cases, obsessions with social media lead to divorce. When partners spend hours a day online, instead of interacting with their spouses, families and loved ones, resentment and distance can build, and ultimately, if not treated, that resentment and distance can lead to divorce.”
Why Couples Quarrel
Arguments may be sparked for many reasons:
- A spouse may send a friend request to an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband, or to an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife.
- A spouse may air their feelings about a marital argument in public.
- A couple may have a public argument online.
- A spouse may do something suspicious like talk to a stranger on Skype or buy a movie ticket without mentioning it to their spouse.
- A spouse may know their partner’s password and do a quick check on their social media activities and then confront them about something.
Unfaithful Behavior Online
In 2010, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers ran a survey and 81 percent of divorce attorneys traced an increase in divorce due to social media flirting or even affairs. Facebook was the number one site where evidence was found of unfaithful behavior.
Social media is a powerful medium for connecting with people from the past. It’s a way to find many people from old lovers to unrequited crushes. It’s not only easy to find these people, but it’s easy to open up a dialogue and build relationships anew. When couples don’t get along, they may find some satisfaction by rekindling a long lost relationship.
In addition to easily finding lost partners, it’s often easy to do so undetected. Mobile technology allows privacy, which makes it easier to talk to someone from a smartphone or tablet when out of the house. While there may be shared use of a home computer, everyone carries their own smartphone with them.
Drop In Relationship Satisfaction
Ironically, social media does not improve communication between married couples even though they can now communicate with each other more often away from the house. Couples may get bored or irritated with each other because of their constant communication. Also, when they spend time with each other in person, they have nothing left to say.
“Couples who communicate using Facebook could be putting a strain on their relationship, researchers have warned,” says an article in the Daily Mail entitled “Does Facebook put a strain on marriages? Couples who communicate on the site ‘have less satisfying relationships’”
According to the article, “Oxford University psychologists found husbands and wives who kept in touch using social media had less satisfying marriages. They surveyed the types of social media used by 3,500 couples. These included Facebook, emails, texts, tweets and instant messages. Those using more than five different channels to communicate with their loved one had a 14 per cent drop in average relationship satisfaction.”
A Treasure Trove of Evidence for Divorce Lawyers
Social media does not only help stir divorce filings but is also used by divorce lawyers as a treasure trove of evidence to use against the other party.
In the past, it was difficult to find enough evidence as grounds for divorce. In fact, a person may have had to hire a private investigator to find evidence to use against a spouse in a divorce. Now, research is as simple as doing a Google search, finding what social media websites they are using, and combing through their social media posts. Since people tend to overshare on social media than they do through other channels, there is a lot of information available.
A variety of evidence can be gathered:
- Evidence can be shown to prove that one spouse has more money that they admit to in court. For instance, a husband may claim not to be able to afford alimony, but a woman’s divorce lawyer might show Facebook posts where he is showing off his latest car or vacation.
- Evidence might also be as incriminating as the spouse sharing pictures that would suggest that they have been having an affair.
- Evidence may show that the spouse has perpetrated domestic abuse, taken illicit drugs, or done something else that would suggest criminal behavior.
Social Media Is Not Your Friend
When social media gets in the way of a real relationship, where a couple spends time with each other in live conversations, it can lead to all sorts of trouble hiding in plain sight. Conflict in a relationship can arise from saying something indiscreet online to doing something as suspicious as forming an intimate virtual bond with someone from the past.