Twitter Envy and Divorce

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce and Social Media on Tuesday, April 8, 2014

We have discussed previously how sharing too much personal information on social media networks like Facebook can cause problems during divorce and custody proceedings.  Now, research from the University of Missouri suggests that the “need to post” itself can lead to divorce.

Some may immediately react with skepticism.  How could posting to Facebook or Twitter possibly lead to divorce?

Researchers have established that interpersonal relationships require one-to-one in person time between partners (rather than “mediated” time, which could be socializing in groups or talking online) and a baseline level of trust.  So far, this makes sense – even though some may quip that the success to a long-term marriage is a minimum of one-to-one time.

Social media interferes with one-on-one time in various ways.  First, it makes the partner feel secondary or left out.  Think of how angry you get when you are trying to have a discussion with your partner and he or she keeps looking away from you and texting or posting with someone else online.  Twenty years ago you would walk into a restaurant and see families looking at one another and talking (maybe laughing, maybe arguing, but at least engaged).  Today, the same walk would reveal table after table of individuals looking at their phones instead of their loved ones.  Electronics do get in the way of interpersonal relating, which is a critical form of emotional intimacy.

Second, having too many followers can make your partner jealous and even suspicious.  Why are you friends on Facebook with your old high school flame?  What did she mean she was looking forward to meeting up with you next month?  Who is so-and-so and why is that person sending you a lot of suggestive tweets?  Oddly enough, the mere fact of growing the circle bigger through followers, even if the content seems rather inane, ups the anxiety/envy factor because your real world partner sees how big your online world is getting and feels smaller by comparison.

Third, online activity leads to an irrational slippery slope.  The more time you spend on Facebook or Twitter with strangers or old friends the more your partner starts to wonder what else you might be doing online and if that becomes off the grid behavior, from checking out pornography to having an affair.

Suspicion can breed contempt, and vice versa.  So, in a relationship with some problems, the happy online times with cheeky comments become more suspicious and raise more issues for your partner – a self-fulfilling prophecy of emotional cheating.

The most recent research showed that simply spending more time tweeting, regardless of age, correlated with relationship problems.

While correlation is not equal to causation – the number one rule of statistics – the correlation in this context makes sense because more online time means less in the real world, which for your partner can be very problematic.  Even though we can multitask with online activities (go to the park and Facebook or Instagram the event), exposing that level of personal information when your partner is absent creates potential for too much space between partners.  Overuse of social media could signal emotional issues for one partner or the relationship, as satisfaction in the online world replaces difficulties in the real world.

If you have questions about social media and divorce, contact our St. Louis divorce attorneys – we can help.