Social media can cost you more than Facebook Friends in divorce, part 1
“Confess your faults one to another,” reads James 5:16, “and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”
Without a doubt, there can indeed be healing benefits in unburdening ourselves to others. Disclosures range from brand-name sins laid out in the Ten Commandments, to what we might like to tell ourselves are trivial, greyer areas of shortcoming.
But indiscretion in the who and the where we tell are now met with ever-increasing consequences when it comes to matters of the heart. A recent feature on Salon.com titled, “The Facebook divorce,” reminds us that postings to your social media outlet of choice will have a reach much further than the Friends you’ve chosen.
That can cost you money — and even parenting time.Information shared by individuals in small group settings associated with divorce recovery workshops is arguably only heard by very few people. Yet I’ve consistently been told by family practice lawyers that no legal right of confidentiality or privilege attaches to these situations, notwithstanding the churches in which the participants meet. I personally emphasize this potential exposure to all gatherings with which I become involved.
Social networking sites like Facebook provide groups on an order of magnitude vastly greater in audience, with inversely proportionate individual protections. Here you’re more readily susceptible to making much bigger mistakes, making them a lot quicker, and making them effectively permanent.
Attorney Megan J. Erickson comments on her Social Networking Blog about a lawsuit that sprung from disparaging remarks regarding one student, posted on Facebook by his classmates. “The nature and extent of publication factors into the damages calculation in defamation actions. Suddenly ‘580 Facebook friends’-worth of damages probably doesn’t seem too funny to these four little bullies anymore.”
In “The Facebook divorce,” writer Amanda Fortini introduces the topic with a seemingly benign story from “Lauren,” who “began chronicling her divorce via status updates. Although Lauren argued that she was simply exercising her right to process her feelings, her “very private ex-husband-to-be soon grew enraged.”
If increased marital tension and acrimony were byproducts, what did Lauren achieve as a primary benefit from letting it all hang out? Little more than serving the voyeuristic interests of Internet readers indulging the “guilty pleasure” otherwise served by supermarket checkout line tabloids, Ms. Fortini concludes.
Casual gawkers aside, professionals are served as well. When it comes to marital conflict, “lawyers, particularly divorce lawyers, have come to view the site as an ‘evidentiary gold mine,’ as a recent piece in Time magazine put it, and they regularly pan for nuggets in the opposing side’s pages.”
To be continued.