A-Z of Divorce: S…is for Social Media 

Friend. Unfriend. Follow. Unfollow. Block. Mute. Hide posts. Untag. Delete.

Was divorce easier pre-social media? 

It seems unlikely, yet the minefield of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – to mention a few – is not an easy one to navigate. With life on public display, it can feel imperative to decide on what message to portray as you go public with your separation and divorce. Even if you don’t plan a big declaration, deciding on the deletion of friendships, photos and followings is a complex and emotional decision.

1. What’s your relationship status?

Well frankly Facebook, none of your business. 

Is it really necessary to announce your separation? Sometimes this might feel like the easiest way of letting people know the situation. (I used a blog post to reveal both this and my new job, a substantial amount of time after the former event.) Those in your close, actual-real-life friends circles will probably already know, so it might be to stop awkward ‘Oh, how’s your other half?’ conversations with anyone else. That said, it’s quite simply none of Facebook’s or anyone else’s business. 

Happily, changing one’s relationship status can now be done without the big announcement Facebook can feel necessary; a quiet removal of that from information about yourself will suffice. That said, letting people know with as much or as little detail as you want is up to you. A good question to ask yourself might be: what do you mind people knowing? Whatever that is, don’t tell them – it’s your business not theirs. Give them the bare bones, entire story, or let them work it out from the absence of your spouse; there’s no right and wrong, but once it’s out there, it’s out there. Take some time, draft, don’t do it while drunk and maybe have a friend read it through too. 

2. To stay friends or not to stay friends, that is a question.

So you’ve let people know you’re no longer together, or not, but now you need to decide. To delete, or not to delete? 

Maybe it’s easier to stay friends online, keep tabs on what’s going on with them? By the same token, then they can see what you’re doing – do you want them to see? It can be tempting to portray the perfect ‘I’m single and fiiiine’ photos and great life experiences purely for their perusal. But perhaps it’s easier not to pretend. 

Again, there’s no right or wrong. I found it helpful to unfriend, unfollow and all the rest of it; my life was no longer connected to his, and to snoop and compare wasn’t a healthy or helpful prospect. Instead, I asked a few trusted friends to let me know of any big life changes in his life so that if we accidentally bumped into each other I wouldn’t be sideswiped with information. Happily, reasonably quickly, even that wasn’t necessary; I was too busy living my own life to worry about his. 

3. The circle of friends.

Having deliberated and decided whether to delete or unfriend your ex-spouse, what then about all those other mutual friends? Their parents, siblings, cousins, particular friends – what’s the answer here? 

Again, there’s no perfect answer. Are you happy to post or not post and have them see? Is it an important line of communication to keep open? 

In some ways these decisions were tougher and much less clear cut than the former. I didn’t dislike these people, they weren’t horrible, in fact they had been my family, I loved them. Eventually I felt that I could no longer feel my life was under scrutiny – even though it may well not have been. The majority of his friends and family went from my Facebook, although some remain (hi!). Where the connection to him was less close they stayed, and if there were other friendships where social events would bring us together they stayed too. I did toy with sending a message, but I figured they would understand. There’s no right and wrong; your friendship with those people is allowed to exist separately – it’s up to the two of you. Just because you’re not friends online doesn’t mean you can’t communicate offline too. 

4. When it’s not your friendship.

This said, where it isn’t up to you if who your ex is friends with. Maybe they follow your best friend, maybe they exchange pleasantries with your family; this isn’t your call. If you’d rather not hear about them or see them online choose appropriate ‘hide all from’ or ‘mute’, and if people insist on sharing details from your ex’s life with you, tell them you’re not interested, as evidenced by the fact you’re no longer following them on accounts. Letting those friendships continue and flourish can be hard to do. But remember – chances are, as you’re not spending the whole time talking about your ex, they’re probably not talking about you either.

5. Memories and photos

Whether to delete these is an interesting question. Albums of holidays, tagged in joint pictures, and then the wedding albums…what to do? Now thanks to Timehop and Facebook we can also take a quick look back over the months leading up to the wedding, being revoltingly smushy (sorry world) and everything being in my old name. 

It’s important to acknowledge that you can’t erase the past, these things happened, and deleting the photos doesn’t mean it didn’t. That said, they don’t have to serve as a constant reminder on social media. The ‘memory’ function can be a helpful way to systematically untag oneself in the images, and delete any you’ve taken yourself. It might also be that you prefer to keep some; your life did happen. I’ve had conversations about wedding dresses where people asked me what I wore to mine. The only photos I have now exist as private on my profile picture album purely to illustrate the point. 

If someone wants to take the time to scroll back through the annals of your photographic history then they can…chances are that they won’t. Maybe you feel more comfortable without them on public display, but want to keep them, maybe you really aren’t bothered, or maybe you want to delete the whole lot – all are good decisions. 

It might even be that you decide to start anew on social media, setting new boundaries for a new life. There are no rules you have to follow, simply making the decisions that feel right for you. Unfriend them, don’t unfriend them, just live life in the real world too. 

20 thoughts on “A-Z of Divorce: S…is for Social Media 

  1. Great blog. Being proactive rather than reactive on Social Media by taking control can definitely help limit all the fallout & heartache that can spill out on that front. Sadly though I’ve experienced another side where through social media you have the initial shock of seeing a photo or video of your ex and new partner together for the first time without any warning or heads up, complete with the added confusion and emotion of some of your friends liking/commenting – that can be quite emotional and tough and something to be aware of on this topic too from a slightly different angle.

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    1. It’s a really helpful point Simon – I guess a further question to ask ourselves is how we will feel observing their life from the outside rather than being part of it and whether this will help us or not? Thanks for commenting – it’s a really valuable perspective.

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  2. This is such a modern day conundrum, isn’t it? My sister (not on social media) and her boyfriend (on social media) recently broke up and it wasn’t a good break up either. I chose to unfriend and block him so that I wouldn’t say anything nasty to him on FB. I didn’t trust myself. God help me if my husband and I divorce. I’m friends with all of his family. It could get ugly. Hahaha!

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    1. Well done for controlling those urges! It’s so hard not to fight for the people we love in ways we think might be best – and social media probably isn’t the best! Not being on social media sounds like a great choice, not sure if I could wean myself off!

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  3. I think your last line sums things up nicely. Social media has made relationships more complicated, definitely, whether you’re in them or out ofthem. Sometimes it’s good to just unplug and take a break 🙂

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  4. My ex and I aren’t friends on Facebook, but I am friends with many of his family members still. They’re lovely people. The end of a marriage isn’t necessarily the end of the relationship, it’s the end of that kind of relationship. Emotions are powerful during the divorce process, but over time the bad softens. You’re correct to call out that no one answer is right for everyone. One rule I live by though is never saying anything about him or about our son that I haven’t talked to him about first. Being respectful isn’t an option in my mind–it’s a necessity.

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    1. Very wise words Angela thank you. You’re right – our relationships with the wider family are often distinct from the marital relationship. Sounds like your ex and son are hugely fortunate that you are so considerate and respectful – an example for us to look to x

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  5. This is an interesting post. I worry about my boys and their dating lives. What will happen when they break up. I feel social media doesn’t allow us to break ties in a healthy way. We don’t need to see what our exes are up to. It’s none of our business. I think social media makes it harder to untangle our lives from someone else’s.

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    1. It does make it much harder to untangle you’re right. It’s also hard to know where that break lies. I found it helpful to know if there was anything big but otherwise not care. Time has made that easier too – now I’m just not bothered what he’s up to – too busy living my own life!

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