With over 500 million users, Facebook is the most widely used social networking site in the world. It’s also incredibly easy to use. But that ease comes with a price. It may take just one click to change your relationship status from “married” to “single”, but that does nothing to protect you from the inevitable fallout of “Joe Schmo is now listed as single” from appearing on each and every one of your friends’ news feeds. This easy-to-use site has now made your life very complicated.
The technology available to us is redefining our lives, and online social networks are advancing at exponential rates. Self-disclosure in cyberspace is now even being used as evidence in some divorce cases to show proof that one spouse is at fault, blatantly lying about something, or shown to be less fit to care for the couple’s children. According to an article in USA Today, research by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that over the last five years, 81% of divorce lawyers have either utilized or encountered evidence from social networking sites in arguing their cases. Facebook is the most cited of these sites, appearing in 66% of cases that used subpoenaed Internet evidence.
Now, the problem here is not the sites themselves or even the Internet in general. Marriages can break up for the most basic of reasons — power struggles, lack of kindness, loss of love, physical abuse, money problems, infidelity, and so on. The Internet doesn't cause marital problems, but it can make matters worse. The double life you try to lead on the Internet might just come back to haunt you. Trying to remain anonymous or keeping certain things hidden may sound well on paper, but your spouse’s divorce lawyer will know how to find information that you thought had been kept tucked away. Not fully realizing the power of social networking technology can get you in hot water very quickly. Before you do anything, virtual or otherwise, know what you’re getting yourself into.
Dr. Banschick is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Huffington Post and The CBS Early Show. He is currently finishing the second of three books in The Intelligent Divorce series, which are devoted to teaching parents how to raise well adjusted kids during a divorce. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.theintelligentdivorce.com