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.