June 05, 2009

Divorce 2.0 : Who Gets the Facebook Friends?

Divorce is ugly. It makes everybody poor or more poor, it makes everything more complex, and it strains all the assumptions. It's interesting to contrast the Atlantic Monthly's sanguine 1966 article on divorce and their 1993 article on the same topic.

What happens to the Friends of the two divorcees ? Friends choose sides. If you know the wife, she's the victim; if you know the husband, he's the victim. One's the dumper, one's the dumpee.

Whichever one you know, the divorcees quickly lose many of their friends, especially their married friends. There's too many dynamics; the divorcees can't settle who gets who along with the rest of the settlement, because the non-combatants may have their own preferences.

It's awkward for married couples to maintain relationships with newly divorced friends. The end result is married people tend to let their friendships with divorcees fall into benign neglect, withdrawing their support when it may be needed most.

Usually as technology changes, the old social conventions carry into the new world, with some accomodation to the new techniques. However, as Etiquette morphs into Netiquette, as we move from RealLife™ into SecondLife, current practice increasingly doesn't match traditional good behavior.

One company laid off 400 people via email. A man announced he was leaving his wife by updating his facebook status to "single". A man broke up with his lover by updating his Wikipedia entry.

What about Friends 2.0? When you break up, and you're both on people's FaceBook friends list, who gets unfriended? What's the protocol?

A Divorce 2.0 Twist on an Age-Old Problem

None of this is new. For all our modern sophistication, there's really very little new under the sun. However, I recently saw a new twist on the age-old "Friends-Divorce" conundrum, in an online query written to Slate's Advice Column, Dear Prudence:
       Erie, Pa.: I am currently in the process of divorcing my husband after 7 years of an abusive marriage. Since my ex and I have children together, I would still like to keep things moderately friendly with his family. My predicament is this: I am Facebook friends with all of my in-laws. Is there a polite way to de-friend them so I can have a life not monitored by the ex's family?

Emily Yoffe: Here's what I don't understand about Facebook. Since it's so public a medium, why would you post things on it you wouldn't be willing to let all the people you've friended see? Are you going to post about the people you're dating, etc? (Why?) In any case, it's your page and if it makes you feel squeamish to have ex-in laws on it, just defriend them. I don't think matrimonial law has dealt with custody of Facebook friends yet.

In a subsequent post, a helpful person posted this advice--
Re: Facebook, to defriend or not?: You can defriend. They don't get notified. If you want to keep them on, though, you can change your privacy settings so they basically don't see anything. Or only certain things. Have a teenager or college-aged student show you.

Emily Yoffe: Good advice. Another reminder of why it's worth it to have children.

Wow. There's big things going on: abuse, divorce, children. Here's the big predicament she needs help with: How do I skank around online without my mother-in-law knowing? And the wisdom of the crowd replies: get that kid of yours to change your privacy settings.



Lady Elaine said...

I love it.

Kat Wilder said...

I totally appreciate the link to my blog post He gets the couch, she gets the friends; I'm not OK, however, with you taking the copyrighted image by Josh Ruthnick, paid for by the Marin Independent Journal, for whom I write the column. Please remove that immediately as no permission was given nor will it be.

Vannevar said...

Hello Kat Wilder,
The image is removed. There wasn't any copyright shown that I could see, and I thought it was within fair use, but - bottom line - the image is removed from the blog and deleted from the server.

Sorry for the mixup. I enjoyed your blog. Vannevar.

Kat Wilder said...

Sorry to be so strict about that, but since the blog is part of the IJ, the content and images are copyrighted. take care. Kat

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