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The Social Media Minefield – Think before you Post

The ever-growing presence of social media in all aspects of our lives is impossible to ignore. It is estimated that 24 million Brits log on to Facebook everyday and there are around 14 million British Twitter users. New ways of communicating and linking with people via the internet appear all the time. Wikipedia lists over 300 social networking websites, all with several thousand users, often millions, and in the case of Facebook, billions. Social media is engrained in our everyday lives and whilst there are real advantages to joining in, there are downsides – many of which are publicised regularly in the media.

This blog focuses on the danger that social media presents specifically to family relationships and why as family lawyers we are conscious of the effects.

  1. Faceless contact

The impact of social media on relationships is a much researched area. Facebook was cited in over 1/3 of divorce petitions in 2014 according to a survey undertaken by Divorce Online. It’s all too easy to reconnect with an old flame or flirt online with someone who has caught your eye – a friend of a friend of a friend perhaps. Without making a conscious decision, one thing leads to another and people are finding that their relationship is in jeopardy.

There’s another side to this as well. Not only to people chat to people they don’t know via social media, but researchers have found that people in relationships talk candidly to each other on social media sites such as Twitter. Airing your dirty laundry on a virtual platform for the world to see and comment upon is a dangerous game to play.

  1. Dating apps – Social cheating

Meeting people online can lead to face to face encounters. There are thousands of dating apps with the sole purpose of connecting people together in the hope that they will start a relationship. Then there are sites like Tinder where users connect with people based on their looks and proximity to their location. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the appeal for some. Meeting someone, whether you’re looking for a long-term relationship or a fling, has never been so easy. It follows, therefore, that extra-marital affairs have never been so easy.

  1. Commenting on your case

Marital breakdown is a stressful and emotional business. For some, the temptation to share their experience is too much. Common examples are posting a status on Facebook or tweeting about not being able to see your children, being overly critical of your ex-partner, accusing your ex of some financial misdemeanour, bragging about spending, posting photos of yourself or being tagged on drunken nights out. All of these may feel like a harmless way to let off steam in the moment, however, not everyone is sympathetic to the author’s plight.

Posting comments in the public domain can be easily found by anyone. To a solicitor, such social media rants can present valuable evidence of about an opponent. Essentially, a comment written in haste or anger without sensible contemplation can form character evidence and be presented to the court. There have been cases where one of the parties has commented about the Judge. A screen print presented to the court will serve a very damning purpose.

Discussion forums present an even greater risk as users may be lulled into a false sense of security by the impersonal arena and reveal details about their particular case. Confidentiality in family cases is paramount and if it is discovered that someone has revealed too much, the may find themselves in contempt of court or have an injunction slapped on them. The financial penalty in both scenarios can be significant.

If you would like to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers, please contact us to make an appointment on 0161 969 3131.