Old People Now Announcing Breakups On Facebook

While it can be a good way to get the news out there and avoid awkward silences in the real world, blabbing the details of your divorce online can come back to bite you in the ass, legally and socially.

I know of several couples who, after amicable breakups, met for lunch and agreed that when they got back to the office, they both would simultaneously change their relationship status from "In a Relationship" to "Single" in one, smooth, sane move, and devote the rest of the afternoon to explaining to curious friends that they were just ready to move on. But in a Salon piece today on the way Facebook is affecting the lives of those going through divorces — and their lawyers — makes that kind of levelheadedness seem rare, at least among an older, less savvy generation.

It seems that every social networking feature that helps keep us connected can also be an irresistible temptation for those who feel wronged by their former spouses. The piece centers on Lauren (fake name), a mother of two who took to Facebook to air her dirty laundry and diss her ex:

"During the month that followed, as the marriage continued to unravel and her grief intensified, Lauren began chronicling her divorce via status updates. "Lauren would cry, but then he wins," she wrote. "There isn't enough Kleenex in the world." "My house is a mess. My life is a mess." "Lauren is facing the aftermath.""

And forget about trying to sneak in status updates aimed directly at your ex's hopefully-jealous heart (and everyone knows when someone's doing that anyway!):

"When she began to write about her new relationship, her husband finally lost it. "I wrote that I was ‘Going to pizza night and beyond,'" Lauren said, "and he was offended by it. I thought it was vague enough.""

Then Lauren expanded her multi-platform revenge empire to the photo-tagging feature:

"Lauren, for example, "tagged" her ex-husband in a photo of their two boys and a coral snake — she gave the snake her husband's name."

Okay, that one is just plain funny. But in their attempts to express their frustration in an increasingly isolated world, some divorcees are accidentally getting creepy:

"Chad Post was expunged by his wife after he posted about chopping down trees in preparation to sell their house. "I wrote that I was probably not in the best mental state to be using a chain saw," he told me. "My wife didn't say anything, but then she defriended me. She just wasn't there anymore. It was super-surreal in a 21st century-meets-third grade sort of way.""

And as if looking nutty to your friends (and high school rivals, and former Sunday School teacher, etc) and sacrificing a bit of your self-respect forever, revealing too much about your post-breakup life on Facebook can have real legal consequences as well, like the possibility of losing custody if your pictures show you drinking or smoking (!), or this kind of thing (which sounds quite far-fetched):

"If, for instance, photos surface online of you and your new paramour toasting each other at a pricey restaurant, you could be found to have committed "marital waste" (spending marital funds on another person)."

Apparently all of this is so common that it's now a just a regular formality in the family law industry:

"Many lawyers, in fact, advise clients not to get on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter at all during a divorce, and some firms require that clients suspend their accounts."

Good plan! The lesson here is not a new one: always remember that nothing you put online can ever be taken back, and that nobody, but nobody, has ever won a breakup or divorce by being less than graceful about it, even before social networking. The article advises regular people to act like celebrities (or, I'd add: pre-Twitter celebrities) and keep your insecure, spiteful, and vulnerable quips close to the vest, no matter how cathartic you think it'll feel to broadcast them. I'd add something to that as well: why not just not answer the relationship part of your Facebook profile? After all, unless you keep your Facebook page as a dating tool, it's really nobody's business, and you can avoid some serious heartache later. Think of it as a social networking pre-nup: reveal nothing, and later have nothing to take back.

The Facebook Divorce [Salon]