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Divorced from reality in a virtual world

February 1, 2011 Speech Box

The foul winter weather, pressing money worries and post Christmas blues have meant that this January has been a bumper time for divorce petitions.

It was the same last January and the year before that… and for many years before that too. In fact, commentators have coined the 20th of January as ‘Divorce Day’. It seems that there is nothing new under the sun. Or is there?

Of course, every relationship is unique; there are many reasons for breaking up. But without doubt, the use of social networking sites is being increasingly used as evidence for unreasonable behaviour – and it is at this time of year when traffic on these sites tends to increase.

There are a number of websites which have been accused of encouraging couples to deceive one another: Second Life, Friends Reunited and Illicit Encounters have all been the subject of divorce tussles. Remember the couple who divorced when a wife found her husband’s alter ego having a virtual relationship with ‘another woman’? However divorced from reality the use of avatars may seem, online relationships can lead to serious – and very real – consequences.

Of all these sites, Facebook continues to be singled out, perhaps because it is so easy to leave a trail of cyber-evidence behind you. A change of relationship status here, a new (yet old) photo there and you have created a ‘virtual you’. If you did a Google search on yourself, what might you find?

If you have found yourself in the midst of marital problems and are a user of social networking sites you should think about placing a self-imposed embargo on signing on to them while you sort out your problems. Don’t be tempted, for example, to sign up on the Facebook Divorce page which now has nearly 6,000 people supporting it – you may find your troubles aired in public. While Facebook is no more than a means of communication, it is increasingly being seen as the third party in many marriages.

Facebook also of course can be great fun… roll on Valentine’s Day.

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