Susan Guthrie is a veteran of the divorce world with 31 years of experience as an attorney. She has also lived it, so she gets it. Susan watched and assisted people going through the divorce process, got divorced herself, and then she met her current husband who also went through the process with children. Her evolution has taught her that there are better ways to do it than the traditional litigation model, and these days her goal is to make sure people know and understand that. It all comes down to self-determination, as opposed to putting your life in the hands of someone else. Susan advises people to “stay in control, hang on to your vision of your life, because it is your life, and the decisions that you make are going to affect it.”
One of those big decisions is choosing what not to post on your social media.
Susan has seen it all, but nothing compares to what she has seen on some of her clients’ social media profiles. What you put out online can come back to haunt you, and Susan has been in court more times than she can count where a blown-up image of someone’s “nastygram” about their ex is held up as evidence. She had pictures of one of her clients sitting on a yacht with his blonde girlfriend in his lap and a bottle of champagne in his hand, when he was trying to reduce his alimony payments. And by the way, the boat was his brand-new boat that he had named after his girlfriend. It was a disaster in the courtroom and Susan was not a happy attorney. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the one posting or someone else is; if it’s on social media, someone’s going to find it and someone’s going to use it against you.
You can be mad, but when you broadcast that on social media, it can make you the villain.
No one wants to be the villain; especially if you are not at fault. You have the right to be upset, but don’t let your emotions control you. Screaming into the void of the internet about your ex is never the right thing to do. Save that for your friends on wine night. Your frustrations can paint you in a negative light online and all that hate will reflect onto you. This tendency to use social media as an outlet for negativity and emotional content can reinforce and perpetuate a negative perspective of you, which will not help you in the long run.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and those words won’t always be a good story.
If your content is available to the world at large, your ex will find it and use it against you. Any picture can be used to argue a case against you, so be mindful of what you post. Let the people closest to you know that going Instagram official right now is not what’s important. You need to curate your life when you are going through a divorce. You are under a microscope the entire time.
With the world we live in, it’s hard to escape the lens of the World Wide Web.
Susan had a case where someone’s Ring doorbell video was used in court against them for indecency. This individual showed up at the door, belligerent and nasty in front of the children when picking them up.You must always remember that you are under that microscope 24/7 right now, and it’s not your friend. We don’t always put out the most flattering view of ourselves, and it can come back to hurt you. It really can.
Social media is a huge part of our lives now, and it’s hard to escape it, but if your goal is to be finished with your ex and move on with your life, these are the small sacrifices that you have to make. It’s not that you can’t participate in social media. Feel free to go on there and post innocuous pictures of you and your kids having a nice time. But the ex-bashing, the nasty comments, risqué photos, essentially, the things that might come back to contradict the viewpoint of your lifestyle that you’re putting out there in a case, are the things to be cautious about.
What about a private or incognito account?
Private accounts or accounts under an anonymous name can absolutely be used in court cases. First, in a legal case, if you are in a divorce and there’s a legal action pending, understand that everything is discoverable very easily. This is part of the standard interrogatory questions under oath that lawyers send to people. You’ll be asked to list all of them. And so, under oath, you’re now going to answer that question. If you have a Finsta or a fake Facebook, a truthful answer will include those. So right there, they’re discoverable. Again, if you need to get something out, for now, you’re better off journaling it in a private written journal or better yet, talking about with a therapist, someone you can confide in.
Even in mediation, you can have your spouse hold up their phone and go: “what about this?” That’s how people find things out for the most part. If you are going to go take a nice weekend away, and then come to a mediation session and have a discussion with your soon to be ex-spouse about finances, don’t be surprised when they say: “well, you just went to the Ritz Carlton resort for a weekend and it looks like you had some really nice dinners and a spa day, because you posted all about it.” Don’t be surprised when that comes up if you put that all out there.
These guidelines aren’t limited to Instagram and Facebook, it’s anywhere online.
It’s LinkedIn; if you work for a company that’s putting out notices, and they put something out about your big promotion, just know that that’s now a part of the public domain. When you post something on LinkedIn about that big deal that you just closed, make sure you understand that that’s all discoverable. TikTok accounts, Snapchat accounts, and Pinterest accounts, you name it. If you’re putting it out there, don’t be surprised to see it come back on a screen capture for you. It’s just too easy for people to find things and they live forever. It’s always out there.
Don’t go posting your personal information on groups or forums.
Even though it’s a private group, it’s not private if it’s 40,000 people. All you have to do is answer four questions and you can totally lie in those questions and join the group. Because people feel like they’re behind some sort of protected wall, they let even more personal data come through and that can be very negative about their ex. Susan has seen these comments used in courtrooms.
So, is the recommendation just to shut down social media until your divorce is over?
For Susan, it’s a yes. She wants to tell all her clients to give social media a rest and just take the higher road with it, then they’ll never have to worry. Suspend the instant gratification you get by putting something out on social media and think longer term. Think about the emotional aspect of that. Think about the impact it will leave. Susan cautions people that if the only positive feedback you get is from your phone, then that says something that you should be looking at too.
The Internet can be a valuable resource, but venture with caution.
There’s a great amount of valuable information in the social media stratosphere for when you’re going through divorce or any difficult transition. There are people like you, like us, and a myriad of other professional compatriots outputting informative content. For the absorption of information for educating yourself, there’s a vast wealth out there for you. Sharing or reposting this information on your profile is completely fine. The online world can help you find experts, professionals, and support groups. The exEXPERTS podcast is online too. But that doesn’t mean that you then have to interact or post about your particular situation. A lot of people will find an account on social media that they like and will post questions right in the comments about their personal case. That is a big no.
Remember divorce is a finite time in your life. It feels all encompassing, and it feels like forever, but it’s really a blip on the radar of your entire life.
Get beyond it. The biggest gift you can give to yourself is getting your divorce over with. The phrase Susan uses is: “Your peace of mind has a dollar sign attached to it, and only you know what it is.” Your peace of mind comes when your divorce is finalized. When you put these meaningless decisions over a couch, or a television set, or over 15 minutes of drop off or pick up, out of your life and move forward, that is your gift. Just do yourself a favor and wait until then to get back onto social media.