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Kit O’Brien, a specialist family law solicitor, reviews the latest research linking social media with relationship breakdown.
Social media is now just another part of life for many of us. We post, we tweet, we chat. We also poke and snoop and use social media to delve into our past lives and into the past and present lives of those close to us. For many people it’s just harmless fun, a way of whiling away time when you should be doing something else; but not always.
Anecdotally, there have been many reports of relationships breaking down following infidelity with an old flame tracked down online and a number of cases where a posting on Facebook has been produced as evidence of inappropriate behaviour in court proceedings. Recent research has thrown up some interesting statistics, suggesting that when it comes to relationships social media is causing some serious issues.
Astonishingly, 25% of couples argue over social media use. Just under 50% of all adults in the UK admit they have secretly checked their partner’s Facebook account. And 20% went on to argue about what they found out. One in seven even said they had contemplated divorce or separation because of their partner’s activities on Facebook, Skype, Twitter, What’s-App or Snapchat!
The researchers talked to 2,000 married people. Nearly 25% of those surveyed said they had at least one row a week over social media use. 17% said it caused daily arguments.
When asked why they checked their partner’s social media accounts the most common reasons given were;-
- To keep tabs on them
- To check who they were out with
- To find out if they were telling the truth about their social life
- In 14% of cases, specifically to find evidence of infidelity
So does the ability to monitor our partners make us more or less likely to trust them? Does the ability to get in touch with long forgotten friends destabilise our relationships? Do we have a tendency to see the depiction of our relationships on our partner’s social media accounts as an indication of how secure they are?
The research revealed that contact with an ex-partner was a frequent source of conflict, as were sending secret messages and posting inappropriate photos – undoubtedly all things that wouldn’t have gone down well before the advent of social media; the difference now is that we’re much more likely to find out. Has social media made us more insecure? Almost certainly. One in twenty respondents complained that they were upset their partner never posted any pictures of them together.
There’s no doubt that for many people their social media accounts are something they see as personal to them, not relevant to their relationship and something they want to keep to themselves. One in ten admitted hiding images and posts from their partner and 8% admitted having secret social media accounts. A third said they kept their log-in details a secret from their partner; clearly not very successfully as 58% claimed to know their partner’s log in details even if their partner wasn’t aware they did.
As many as 20% of those questioned said they had found something on their partner’s Facebook that had made them feel uneasy about their relationship. 43% confronted their spouse immediately about what they found; 40% said it took some time before they felt comfortable so doing.
For the majority of us, social media will just be a great way of catching up with friends and family and keeping in touch with what they’re doing. The ability however to rekindle old relationships and (for some) live out the fantasy of what your life might have been like can well be dangerous. All too frequently the people who give their spouses the greatest cause for concern from their online activities are those who forget the need for privacy settings, making their postings all too easy to find and follow.
Relationships are all about trust and the need to trust your partner’s social media use is no different to your need to trust them in any other area of your lives. Anything that weakens the bonds of trust between partners has the potential to cause real damage and social media clearly has the potential to be a big part of that.
At Slee Blackwell we appreciate how traumatising a relationship breakdown can be whatever might have triggered it. Despite the ever increasing impact which technology has on our daily lives our family law specialists understand that we are all human and sometimes things just don’t work out. If that happens to you then come and talk to one of our specialist family team. We can’t put the clock back and make the sadness go away. But we can give you frank, sensible, and cost effective advice to help you resolve your relationship issues and move towards happier times.