Last spring, in May 2012, an Indian woman filed to divorce her husband of 2 months. What was the reason she gave? That her new husband had failed to change his Facebook relationship status to “married.”
When her husband offered to change the status to get her to reconcile, she rejected his gesture, saying that, because he had not put their marriage on Facebook, he could have been doing things behind her back and she could no longer trust him. This example is extreme but it speaks to a phenomenon that is becoming very real in the United States – Facebook has increasingly contributed to the demise of marriages.
The connection between Facebook and divorce is hard to deny. Consider: Facebook was named in a third of divorce filings in the year 2011, which is up from being named in a fifth of the divorce filings in 2009. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 80% of American divorce attorneys report an increase in the number of their cases involving social media. As Connecticut divorce attorney Gary Traystman put it, “I see Facebook breaking up marriages all the time.” He reports that of the 15 cases a year that he takes that involve computers, texts, and email as evidence, 60% deal exclusively with Facebook.
The evidence that there is a link between Facebook and divorce is fairly convincing. The question that now plagues us, is why is there such a link? Is there something about Facebook that simply makes its users loath the confines of monogamy?
Probably not. But Facebook has something that traditional (aka offline) affairs do not – intensified speed and the illusion of privacy.
Traditional affairs might take months to develop – they require secret liaisons, conversations in person, perhaps clandestine notes and telephone calls. But affairs on Facebook can get started with just a few clicks – and they can be with people you may already know. Many instances of infidelity that begin on Facebook involving a married person using Facebook to reconnect with a former high school sweetheart on Facebook, before promptly taking off with said sweetheart. Rekindling that connection – so easily finding a past flame – was hardly possible, or at least much more difficult, before the rise of Facebook. Thus Facebook facilitates infidelity with the speed in which its possible to initiate and arrange an affiair.
Facebook also creates the illusion of privacy. On your Facebook profile, or a comparable social networking tool, you may feel that medium is your space – that it is private and secure. In many instances, you would be incorrect – as many people in divorce court have found out. For while using Facebook to conduct an affair is expedient, it is also incredibly easy to track and document. And as an increasing number of lawyers are using evidence found on Facebook for divorce cases, the social media trail has become very important.