Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "
Facebook and many other social networking websites have changed the world but not necessarily for the better.
Facebook in particular has opened up a doorway for people to find what they are missing in their lives. It sounds like a good thing, doesn't it?
But if that "something" that a husband or wife needs is something that they need from their spouse an issue arises. Facebook's easy access to millions of people at the touch of a button allows men and women to avoid reaching out to their partners to solve their relationship issues and find that missing relationship element elsewhere.
Avoidance of relationship issues is far from the best way to maintain a positive, strong, and loving relationship with someone. In fact, avoidance leads to a breakdown by drawing one or both of the partners in the relationship in opposite directions.
On the surface it may seem harmless. Sometimes, it starts as finding old friends and a little bit of chat here and there to catch up on old times. At other times it might start as a partner intentionally finding groups or people who have the same relationship issue in their life and are therefore sympathetic too it. Before long people may have connected and cultivated and internet friendship.
It is common for this internet friendship and/or other interactions to develop into what is seemingly harmless flirting and sympathetic understanding for each others problems and gaining a deeper respect and appreciation for the person on Facebook than you otherwise have with your partner. Many times this occurs because the person on Facebook is sympathetic to what is missing in your life because as a give and take typing over the internet there is a focus on what is missing in your life and since the person is not likely to judge you since they are not your partner, you feel comforted and perhaps even empowered and loved by the Facebook person.
Before you know it you are exchanging pictures of each other, expanding into other subjects about family and likes and dislikes while subconsiously examining your compatibility with this person. All the while most people never notice that they are sinking deeper and deeper into the trap of destroying their own marriage by reaching out to a third-party on Facebook for their needs rather than addressing the issue they have with their partner and resolving if not strengthing the relationship.
The person's avoidance by using technology in the form of Facebook or any other social networking forum or Instant messaging service, etc. . . becomes destructive to the relationship as they someone begin to believe that the "grass is greener on the other side of the fence." This may or may not lead to a physical meeting which, because of the bond created over Facebook or other social media often ends up in a physical relationship which is likely to destroy their relationship with their present partner.
It is sad that social media technology like Facebook now lends itself to such ease of use on a 24/7 basis that rather than dealing with issues at hand with those who are physically in our lives here and now. We seek fulfillment elsewhere and let present relationships deteriorate and sometimes die because it is an easy way not to deal with issues that have arisen.
Yes, technology is more and more becoming the cause of the destruction of relationships in our society and it is questionable whether the benefit of touching base with old friends from long ago is enough of a benefit to offset the destruction of our current relationships. Certainly it prompts in many people an avoidance mentality so that it is easier to avoid relationship issues and find someone else to fulfill a missing need. In the end, we shirk our responsibilities and destroy our own relationships by failing to take responsibility for the issues in our current relationships and running away to a person on Facebook.
In the end, Facebook has become such a tremendous tool that it has been used to justify divorces on a fault basis for what some judges consider "internet affairs" or "internet infidelities" which justify an offset in the distribution of marital assets and debts. In some cases it has destroyed relationships between a mother and child as some judges make determinations about the change in the physical placement of a child based upon statements and pictures on a child's Facebook account which remained unsupervised by the parent.
Unfortunately Facebook is only one forum that demonstrates how technology has been able to wreak havoc on today's relationships.
Perhaps the Zuckerbergs of the world will one day realize that other than the financial bottom line, sometimes the price paid on relationships and families is too much. When that day occurs I hope they find a way to remedy the damage that is being done by the product they created and find a way to minimize the damage it creates.
Or, is the user to be considered completely at fault for using so easily available a technology forum like Facebook rather than correcting their own relationships?