Family law solicitors at Carter Law’s Manchester based practice have noticed a trend for social media to be the cause, or a catalyst in an increasing number of divorce cases. As people are becoming emotionally attached to their smartphones, it seems that Facebook, Twitter et al, are becoming factors in an increasing number of divorce cases.
A study in 2014 shows the use of social media negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness. The more a person used social media, the more problems appeared in their relationship. The study claimed that 1 in 7 married individuals consider divorcing their spouse due to social media issues.
So what exactly is it about social media that is causing problems for married couples?
Social media has its positives. It allows you to share your life with family and friends, and keep in touch and up to date with what’s happening amongst your network. But there is a dark side to social media which is becoming more apparent; the potential temptation for spouses to have affairs and cause daily arguments in relationships.
Social media can make affairs more accessible. Affairs that may have taken almost years to develop in the past are a lot easier to have with access to social media. When people are experiencing a rocky patch within their marriage they tend to seek outside support and with accounts such as Facebook, an old flame is only one ‘Add Friend’ button away.
People tend to have people on Facebook who they see as potential back-burners if their marriage was to break down. Affairs don’t have to be just physical relationships; they can be purely a digital based affair. This involves talking to someone online who you are attracted to and keeping this a secret from your partner.
Partners in marriages are getting caught out for bad behaviour on social media, as this heightened connectivity has created a world that means no matter where you are, who you are with, you can be watched by someone. Social media accounts such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram make it easier for spouses to catch their partners in the act.
58% of people admit to knowing their spouse’s passwords, even though their spouse had no idea. Partners may be inclined to snoop into their spouse’s social media account to find out who they are talking to, who they are meeting and where they are going. A co-worker could tag a person in the pub who their spouse sees and become suspicious as their partner told them they had to work late.
As well as the opportunity for affairs, the trend of ‘facebragging’ on social media is contributing to the increased number of divorces. ‘Facebragging’ is when people use social media to cultivate an online image of success. Couples are comparing their relationships with other marriages that post about their happy lives, often striking up feelings of envy in viewers; the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, however.
Some husbands and wives put pressure on each other to outdo friends and their spouse’s on social media in terms such as physical appearance and splurging out on luxurious holidays which they can’t actually afford to brag about how much better their life is, causing financial stress to the marriage. Social media is giving couples unrealistic expectations of marriage and resulting in unhappy partners being dissatisfied with their lives.
The amount of time spouses spend online is also a contribution to divorce cases. A study suggests people that use Facebook more than once an hour are more likely to experience Facebook-related conflict with their partner. This is down to spouses feeling undermined when their partner is failing to pay attention to them.
Spending a lot of time on social media can make a spouse feel like their partner is more interested in what is going on elsewhere, rather than what’s going on with them. When was the last time there was an ad break on television and you paid attention to your partner rather than checking your newsfeed?
Social media can be a catalyst for jealousy in marriages, which leads to further problems in the relationship. Spouses can become envious of the amount of a time their partner is spending on social media, they can become jealous of images they are posting including pictures of nights out with friends, or irritated by the people they are adding on Facebook. People can often feel less supported by their partner if they are choosing to post images of events rather than their family.
Some people use social media as a way to escape from their relationship problems, but being in a relationship takes work and sometimes it might seem easier to bury your head in a smartphone and see what’s happening across social media rather than talk about issues in the relationship and making the effort to make things work out.
Alana Mustill – Carter Law – Family Solicitors in Manchester