By Douglas Manning, Partner, Certified Specialist in Family Law
In these days of ever-increasing complexity in how we communicate (and perhaps why we communicate) couples might be well-served to discuss the “Rules of Engagement” in how they use their social media accounts. Relationships are hard enough as it is, but now with the rise of social media, a whole new level of communication, and mis-communication, is possible.
Some couples are discussing and considering setting down what is acceptable and not acceptable in terms of what they broadcast to the outside world both during their relationship and in the event the relationship should end. For example, is it OK to send out a tweet or post about your spouse’s botched dinner or the unflattering pair of jeans they decided to wear to your aunt’s birthday party? What about that photo you snapped of them while they slept with their morning “bed-head” hairstyle? Is it fair game to post this on social media?
Some couples have insisted that they discuss, and agree upon, the ground rules for what can be done and what can’t be done with these kinds of photos and personal vignettes. Some spouses have started insisting that their partner seek their approval before posting photos or comments that include them that are of a personal nature. There may also be security or safety reasons to have an understanding with your partner about the types of things that you are content with being posted. For example, if your spouse travels a lot for business and you are left home a great deal of the time, you might not want your spouse posting comments or pictures of where he/she is thus notifying the world that you are home alone.
In the circumstances of a relationship breakdown, the temptation to post embarrassing photos or comments regarding your now ex-spouse for all the world to see may be irresistible. What happens when a former partner decides to put every intimate photo taken of the couple on Instagram when they break up? Many of us know of the ugliness that can erupt during a relationship disintegration so do you want to have this littered all over the internet for all to see?
This is why some relationship experts suggest that you and your significant other establish guidelines as to what is fair game to post both during the good times in the relationship as well as the bad times when the relationship goes south. You can consider rules for determining what is off limits (no discussion, just doesn’t get put out there) and what sorts of items/photos/stories need prior approval of your partner before posting. If you think about it, the themes of privacy and boundaries are really what we are talking about.
As my grandma used to say (decades before the internet was even a sparkle in her eye) “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Plan ahead and avoid problems before they jump up (on your computer screen) and bite you in the you-know-where.