With the phenomenon of social media has come the phenomenon of ‘Facebragging’ and it’s now a factor in leading couples to divorce.
Sharing, Oversharing and Facebragging
Marriage is hard enough without the pressures of outsiders looking in, but social media – and particularly Facebook – has made it very easy for ‘sharing’ our lives. But it’s the kind of life we share that may be a contributing factor in divorces according to divorce lawyers who are dealing with this issue in their clients’ relationships.
What we present to the world on social media is often heavily sanitised. Gone are the snaps of accidental double chins, a hair out of place or a candid shot in our less than best pyjamas. Is there even such a thing as a candid shot anymore? Our Facebook timelines are a parade of perfect moments. We’ve got cute kids, stunning holiday photographs, amazing run times and a clean kitchen with a culinary creation to challenge even Jamie Oliver. We’ve gone from keeping up with the Jones’ to trying to outstrip all of our peers in the presentation of our beautiful lives.
Holly Tootill, a family lawyer with JMW Solicitors based in the United Kingdom, which handles just over 300 divorces a year, said around one in five marital splits on the firm’s books involve spouses complaining about their “imperfect” marriages. Social media has became a major conduit for discontent and unrealistic expectations, she said. “There is a relatively small percentage of cases in which individuals are encountering evidence of improper behaviour by their partners on social media,” she said.
“But it is, if you like, the volume and frequency of apparent perfection portrayed on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and in lifestyle and entertainment magazines which is a far greater problem. Family, friends and businesses are so keen to use social media, in particular, as a means of promotion that spouses are being exposed to lots of very positive imagery. It all looks so glamorous and so very exciting that people make negative comparisons with their own home lives and their husbands or wives as a result. They seem unable to accept what they see as something of a show and not necessarily representative of daily reality for the majority of people.”
While wanting their marriages and spouses to live up to unrealistic expectations is not the only factor in a divorce, it is certainly an amplifier of issues between a couple. “The pressure which it creates, however, exacerbates existing tensions or fractures in relationships across almost all age groups” Toothill said. Photographs – often carefully selected to show people in the best light before being shared – can prove particularly toxic in some contexts, she added.
This toxic trend of Facebragging seems to have only escalated with the development of technology and rise of social media, but bragging has been around for a lot longer than that. It’s just that now a lot more people are exposed to it and buy into it and practicing it has become even easier. ‘Sharing’ is often just ‘showing off’. But when we consume and believe it then we’re not being particularly helpful or endearing either.
Daisy Buchanan got married last year so knows the excitement of preparing and sharing a wedding – she admits to a bit of Facebragging. She has also observed firsthand the discrepancy between a portrayed marriage and the reality. She says,
A few weeks ago I had dinner with a friend and her partner, having frothed with low-level envy for months as I gazed at their perfect Facebook life. He’d tagged her in a picture up a ladder, looking winsome in dungarees, wielding a paintbrush, captioned: “The most beautiful woman in the world is making our home beautiful too!”
I’d seen them dressed up outside a casino on an impulsive Vegas holiday and a photo she’d posted of smoked salmon and avocado toast (“So glad I married a man who brings me breakfast in bed”).
Dinner was tense, because it was apparent that they were in the middle of a big argument that continued whenever I went to the loo.
“How was Vegas? It looked amazing!” I asked brightly. “We haven’t finished paying for it yet,” she said glumly. “I told you I was done talking about that,” he said.
What is the moral of this story? Stop bragging. Nobody likes it. Even outside of Australia, which tends to have a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome about many things, bragging is annoying and unhelpful. People who brag may think it makes them look good, but it often backfires, new research suggests. Self-promoters may continue to brag because they fundamentally misjudge how other people perceive them, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science.
“Most people realize that they experience emotions other than pure joy when they are on the receiving end of other people’s self-promotion,” said study co-author Irene Scopelliti, a behavioral scientist at the City University London in England. “But when we ourselves engage in self-promotion — either on social media or in person — we tend to overestimate people’s positive reactions, and we underestimate their negative reactions.”
Does this mean we should just say it how it is? Yes. And no. We need to be realistic about our relationships and each other if we want them to have any chance of surviving. Presenting or buying into Facebragging about our marriages just perpetuates those false expectations. Divorce is never an easy road and it seems that Facebragging is acting like jetfuel to get you there faster. Telling the whole world (or at least your Facebook friends) about the stench your husband left in the toilet or the way your wife can no longer fit into her wedding dress are also not the kind of ‘candid’ comments that need airing on social media. Perhaps developing a ‘filter’ for how a comment may or may not build up your relationship in a healthy way is a good start as to what’s appropriate or not. Also – our lives are not lived in cyberspace so don’t feel like you need to update the cyberworld of your every movement.
If you’d like to speak with one of our family lawyers, please contact us today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.