Everyone uses social media for a variety of reasons, mainly to connect with friends and family. Some people use it for the less noble purpose of seeking attention in every conceivable manner. One category of users who maximize this particular utility of social media is celebrities and wannabe celebrities. As to what type of information is being shared, it doesn’t matter. Oversharing has become the norm, and no thought is too sacred and private that your parents, friends, barista, and anyone in your friends list couldn’t “like” or engage with it.
If you have an Instagram account, chances are you follow one or one hundred celebrities who, as you know, are the paragon of exemplary human behavior — not. You’ve probably seen a post by celebrities announcing their divorce. If you’ve spent any time wondering about that weird habit, you’re in luck because this post dissects the rationale behind divorce announcements on social media.
Why announce your divorce on social media?
It seems narcissistic to think that your friends and family care enough about your marriage to want to read about it on their smartphones as they scroll through their social media news feeds. But there are surprisingly practical reasons for announcing your divorce on social media. For one, it makes you feel less alone. Sharing a painful life event can be as therapeutic as sharing a happy one. It’s also a way to help your friends understand what you’re going through.
That said, it takes a well-thought-out caption (and the perfect accompanying photo) to make sure you get your message across.
When ex-couples like Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux, or Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott posted about their separation on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, it seemed strangely appropriate. They’re public figures who attract attention, and announcing their split in these mediums was a way to preempt the tabloids that might post about their separation ahead of them. In fact, not making the announcement themselves could even prove detrimental, as the showbiz rags and blogs might hound them for as long as they keep the general public guessing.
But should non-celebrities emulate Magic Mike and his ex or the billionaire Bezoses? Who benefits from using such a public space to announce a very private matter: the spouses or Mark Zuckerberg?
And is there a right motivation for it? Are you doing it to exact revenge on your ex? A divorce takes months to be finalized, so consider the possible consequences before you post unsavory thoughts about your former love. Is it to simply get it off your chest? Are you letting people know to gain sympathy or public approval? If that’s the case, calling your parents or your best friend might be smarter. It helps to know your motivations for wanting to publish that divorce announcement.
On one hand, there are people who have no qualms about posting about their divorce on social media. On the other hand, there are those who recoil at the thought of making a PSA about any updates on their relationship. If you belong to the former camp, make sure you take the time to ponder your reasons for doing it, the people you want to share your posts with, and how you want to do it. Consider talking to your family law attorney or mediator if you have lingering questions or doubts.
Pros and cons of announcing your divorce on social media
Informing your family and friends in person about your divorce is heartbreaking, and announcing it on online spaces like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can even be more so. To help you decide how you'll let people know, consider the following pros and cons.
It saves you from a lot of awkward conversations. Announcing your divorce on a platform like Facebook saves you from having to tell everyone in your life on multiple occasions that you and your spouse are no longer together. It may seem bizarre to post a very private matter on a website hounded by privacy issues, but doing so will save you from telling the heart-wrenching story over and over. Not being asked by friends and acquaintances about your vacation plans as a couple could be worth it. Also great: not having to inform people face to face.
It takes the venom out of the separation. In any divorce, it’s not uncommon for ex-partners to harbor negative feelings toward one another. Look no further than these sterling examples of high-conflict divorces: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, and more recently, Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock. Of course, it’s also possible for exes to part amicably.
Bottom line: People will take sides and assign a villain. Agreeing to announce your split via a message that’s worded in a way you both approve of could make your separation as congenial as possible.
It allows you to present an authentic side of your life. Social media is often all about presenting the good sides of life. As you’re going through a divorce, you may not want to create a false impression that your life is peachy. At the same time, no one is entitled to know what’s going on in your life at any given moment — but it pays to let people who care about you know that you’re going through a devastating life event. No matter how amicable the parting, going through a divorce can be gut-wrenching, and you need all the love, support, and funny divorce memes you can get from your support group. Announcing your separation on Facebook can be an efficient way to inform your closest social circles who might be able to help you through a tough time.
It may aggravate an ongoing high-conflict divorce case. Unlike announcing a major life event like getting a promotion or moving to a new house, a divorce takes months to finalize. In Washington, spouses who are in agreement in a dissolution of marriage can expect the process to enter final orders after a period of at least 90 days. But if the process is riddled with complicated property settlement, child custody, or alimony issues, it could take eons. Within that period, either spouse might be tempted to air their dirty laundry and say something incriminating, and, in turn, aggravate the case.
This happens when, for instance, you’re currently going through a divorce and arguing that you can’t afford to pay a certain amount of spousal support. In this case, any social media post of you flaunting your new car or enjoying a luxury vacation can be used against you by your ex.
It’s permanent. Anything you post on the internet lives there forever (even if you delete it), so choose your words carefully and if possible, consult your ex before you post anything. Keep that strongly worded, aggressive-sounding post in the drafts, or just delete it.
It could elicit distasteful comments and reactions. It may also help to keep social media usage at a minimum during an ongoing divorce. You never know who can see your posts and what they will make of your posts if you’re as active a social media user as, say, Cardi B. At best, people would offer consoling words and express sadness over your situation. At worst, they might screenshot your post or share it with people whom you don’t wish to inform. The thumbs-up and laugh reactions also won’t do any good, while other friends — even well-meaning ones — may leave compromising comments.
Tips for announcing your divorce on social media
Follow this guide to announcing your divorce on social media to avoid regrets in the future.
Pick just one platform. You’ll likely pick Facebook for this task because chances are, all your friends and family members are on there. You probably wouldn’t need to announce it on Twitter or Instagram, as these are where people tend to have many casual acquaintances rather than real friends. And please, don’t ever use LinkedIn for this purpose. The obvious benefit of posting on social media is to make the announcement as efficient as possible. Posting it on multiple platforms entails having to address responses in different mediums.
Choose your audience carefully. Post your personal press release on your close-friends group to make sure you’re not announcing it to those who don’t need to know. Better yet, create a friend list specifically for this purpose. Only celebrities should make such posts public, so don’t forget to set the post’s privacy setting to “private” or “close friends only.”
Be positive and keep it brief. Your friends and family don’t need to know every single detail of the divorce. No one needs to know if there was a third party involved, if it was because of financial issues, or because you don’t share the same political beliefs.
Related reading: Democracy and divorce: Can love trump political differences?
You may wish to inform coworkers and casual acquaintances besides your friends and family, so the message should contain only essential details. That is, that you are separating but will remain friends who still care for each other and are working together in raising your children and/or pets. Parting may be such sweet sorrow, but parting amicably is much sweeter.
Don’t post until you and your ex are ready. You can keep this private matter private, unlike in the case of exes such as Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, or Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. If you’re not on speaking terms with your ex, you should at least give them a heads-up if you're going to post about something sensitive that involves them. You may have personal reasons for wanting to announce it, while your ex may have their own reasons for holding off on making any announcement. If you and your ex can’t agree on this task, it’s best to not make any public statement at all. Better yet, wait until the divorce is finalized before you speak about it publicly.
Avoid hurling insults at your ex online. Because 1) it just puts you in a negative light, and 2) there may be legal ramifications down the road. Simply not posting on social media at all is also completely acceptable. However, if you feel compelled to post, there are valuable lessons to be learned from Goop Paltrow and Chris Martin’s trendsetting conscious uncoupling announcement.
Be specific. There’s no telling how your friends on social media will react to your post. To avoid awkward interactions and situations, you may want to be specific as to how you wish your friends to engage with it. For example, ask them not to share the post, or not to post on your ex’s Facebook wall.
Consider the kids’ welfare
If you and your ex have a child or children, you will have to deal with child custody matters during and after the divorce, so think of the kids too if you’re planning to post about your separation. When your kids grow up, they may not be too happy to learn that a pivotal point in their family history had been available online even way before they were of legal age and allowed to have their own social media accounts. This is an especially crucial point because parents today tend to overshare information, including photos, about their children.
What we’re saying is that it would be tragic but not very surprising if identity thieves target the kids of people like Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian-West when they become teens because these kids’ information is easily accessible online. A report revealed that, on average, parents post 1,300 photos of their children by the time the kids turn 13. And when parents somehow include details about their children on their post about their divorce, it could result in the little ones’ privacy being inadvertently violated.
Moreover, children may know more than they let on, so it’s better to explain your divorce to them clearly and honestly rather than have them find out through social media. If their parents are living apart, they’ll start asking questions, and being dishonest about the situation won’t help in the long run. Since you and your ex will have to co-parent in separate homes, the kids will eventually learn about the truth about their separate households.
When in doubt, consult a family law attorney
Social media has evolved from being a harmless website where one updates friends and family about one’s lovely dinner to being an online platform responsible for getting people of questionable character elected into positions of power. But perhaps we’re being too cynical about social media. We know that there’s some good in it, too. We know it’s an efficient tool with which to communicate with your ex-partner and your attorney.
If you have any doubts about how social media can affect your ongoing divorce, call divorce attorneys like Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams. If you’re concerned about whether a post is appropriate or has potential legal consequences, family law attorneys like us can offer sound legal advice.
Behaving properly on social media during an ongoing divorce is a slippery slope — and it’s so easy to slip. If you have to ask whether a post is appropriate, just log out. Take a break from social media. The last thing you want is the cloud of a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or, god forbid, a TikTok post hanging over your divorce.
Do you need family law attorneys’ advice regarding announcing your divorce on TikTok (our solid advice: don’t)? Ultimately, it’s your divorce, and telling people about it — and how you wish to announce it — rests entirely on you. Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are divorce attorneys in Washington state with years of experience handling family law cases. Call our Renton, Seattle offices at 425-250-9661 or schedule a consultation.