My ex-husband has always been very active in social media. He has to be, because it is good for the promotion of his career. When we were together, it didn’t bother me much when Facebook friends of his would make a comment on a picture of the two of us, or that people who weren’t friends of mine would send me a friend request because I was his wife. It did began to annoy me very much when his Facebook fan page spilled over into my private life, with so-called “fans” spamming me with requests. I politely declined them, but never fully escaped from my ex’s online presence encroaching into my own little online world. I didn’t need to do any personal internet marketing, and always have used Facebook simply as a way to stay in touch with friends who had moved far away. But he used his online presence to generate sales, so he accepted friend requests from everyone, including long lost family members, ex-girlfriends, and his estranged father. Things started to get a little messy. When we divorced a few years later, things got even messier.
A Brave New Cyber World - Dealing With Facebook Comments About Your Divorce
The things people feel at liberty to say over the internet never cease to amaze me. When my marriage ended, my ex and I stayed on amicable terms for the most part. We communicated and retained a few mutual friends, and he moved to a town only twenty minutes away. Otherwise, we developed our own lives, our own separate social circles, and we only overlapped on occasion. Except, of course on Facebook. Online, we had many mutual friends, and when my ex openly “Facebook divorced” me (yes, it is an actual term now!) people shockingly felt the need to weigh in. I remember late one night reading a comment from a very uninhibited woman asking him on a date..and he had only moved out the week before. Then there were open statements from those showing him their support, making sure he - and I - knew he could do better. I even once read a comment about giving him free financial advice, because ex-wives can be so nasty and greedy. They all hurt, or angered me, and certainly shocked me. Many of these people were strangers, or acquaintances at most. What gave them any insight into our marriage from their living rooms? I had heard of cyber bullying, but I thought it happened to kids in school. These were supposed to be rational adults, weren’t they?
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When Friends Act Like Enemies - Words Can Be Weapons
The remarks of strangers can be annoying, infuriating even, but truly hurtful words can only come from those whose opinions matter to you, because they matter to you. When people you assumed were friends take his side, and in a very public forum, it feels devastating. I never believed in the old saying, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Words are powerful weapons. Whether they are spoken, written down, or thought silently inside your own head. We all learn as children that the words we say to someone else can cause harm. As an adult, if I offend someone in person I am held accountable because I can see her right in front of me. Yet when it comes to choosing what we say online, people seem to forget that those words they are typing with abandon are being read by real people with feelings, wounds, and memories. It’s too easy to fire off word weapons from behind the safety of the computer screen.
Shortly after my ex moved out, a girl who I had been fairly close friends with made a public Facebook comment about how she believed that if I deserved any percentage of my ex’s income (we were still legally married by the way) than so should she. I didn’t know whether to feel hurt or angry or outraged. Not only was it a strangely entitled thing to say, but she was supposed to be my friend, and therefore sensitive to how I might feel reading it. I wondered if it was something she would feel brave enough to say to me in person, but I never found out. I made the decision then and there to unfriend her on Facebook, and from my real life as well. It may sound harsh, and possibly I could have chosen to try to talk to her and work it out. But as I’ve grown older I have come to realize that true friends consider each other’s feelings. Life is too short to have someone in my life who makes me feel bad, or embarrassed, or resentful.
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Choosing Your Friends and Words Wisely, On and Offline
When you are going through a difficult time in your life, it is important to surround yourself only by people who support you, and who you know you can trust. Death, divorce, and disease are all those scary D words that bring out the best and the worst in people. These days, unfortunately, the worst in people has become uninhibited with the rise of quick social media access. For that reason, you have to choose your friends wisely, both on and offline. You also have to choose your words wisely, especially if you’re posting status updates for all to see. It’s a good idea to put in place a few basic rules to live by when it comes to social networking pre and post divorce.
Don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say to someone in person, and remember that there is always the chance that what you say will get back to your ex.
Don’t lash out and make a comment to someone, even out of self defense. No one ever regrets what they didn’t post on Facebook.
Be careful about posting even seemingly harmless photos of yourself with friends if your divorce is pending. Almost anything your ex sees can be potential evidence against you in court.
Avoid interacting with your in-laws online. Trust me on this one.
Above all, do not interact with your ex online. You could both say things you don’t mean, and you don’t want a written trail of evidence to be used against you later on.