Can our addiction to social media really cause divorce?
According to a survey by the UK’s DivorceOnline, Facebook was implicated in a third of all divorce filings in a recent year. Moreover, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, over 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys have witnessed a rise in the number of divorces linked to social networking. A study published in July 2014 in the journal, Computers in Human Behavior, revealed that the use of social networking sites “is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce.”
Many research studies are referring to “internet infidelity” and “virtual adultery” as a national epidemic. Apparently, the anonymity associated with electronic communication allows users to feel more open and free in talking with other users. This anonymity and attention makes the “virtual affair” fun, easy, increasingly appealing and accessible.
But there is conflicting evidence. A study by the Journal of Family and Economic Issues found that there is no evidence of an increase in divorce due to social networking. Rather, this study suggests that Internet sites are simply an accessible means to explore relationships outside of marriage.
Social Media in Divorce Proceedings
If you’re in the middle of a divorce, be aware of what you post on social media sites. The Family Law Act restricts how court proceedings are recorded and what information can be published or broadcast, including on social networking sites.
Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 makes it an offence to publish proceedings or images that identify people involved in family law proceedings unless a Publication Order has been made or another s 121 exemption applies.
Section 97 of the Family Law Act provides that all proceedings are held in open court unless the Court decides otherwise.
Penalties of up to one-year imprisonment can apply for breaches of s 121.
In the 2013 case of Lackey & Mae the Judge referred to social media as being used “as a weapon” and that “… parties (and lawyers) readily and regularly explore for (invariably incriminating) ‘evidence’ to be used in litigation”. There are now many cases in the Family Courts where social media posts are used as evidence.
In the case of George & Nichols the father posted a cartoon with the phrase “I Type ‘Bitch’ into my GPS and guess what? I’m in your driveway…”. The Court, in this case, ordered the mother have sole parental responsibility for the child as it was concerned the father “…could not contain his poor opinion of the mother… in particular, based on his Facebook comments… and that the child would likely suffer psychological harm if required to spend time with the father”.
Once such information is online, even if you delete a post or image, it can prove almost impossible to permanently remove it from the internet. You can also be criticised for deleting a post that has effectively become evidence. It is now accepted by the Court that a party’s social media publications form part of the documents they have an obligation to disclose to the other party.
How To Protect Your Marriage From Social Media
Our dependency on social media and our smartphones does have a negative impact on our relationships.
Go on technology free dates.
Using your phone when you’re in the presence of your other half means that you are less connected and more distracted. You’ll be multi-tasking and paying them less attention. We all know how it feels when you’re trying to tell someone something important, but they’re absorbed in their screen. One of the best ways to stop your phone addiction from ruining your relationship is to dedicate real one-on-one time to each other. Leave your phone at home when you go out for a walk or keep your phone in your bag when having dinner together.
Ban your phone from your bedroom.
Much has been written about how using your phone before bed leads to poor sleep. A smartphone-free bedroom also means spending relaxed, intimate time together, uninterrupted by work-related messages and other stress-inducers.
Talk to each other in person.
It’s never a good idea to start an argument or try and discuss a sensitive subject via text or instant message. Without being with a person, it’s difficult to gauge their mood and things are often typed in the heat of the moment. Relationships are all about communication, and relying upon your smartphone to communicate issues is a dangerous game. Talk through problems in person and you’ll find they are resolved much more easily.