Divorce, Social Media, and the #divorceselfie

Many couples splashed their wedding pictures across Facebook, Instagram, and other social media when they got married. Now that many of those couples have separated and filed for divorce, those same photos became a painful reminder of happier times.

divorce selfie

A Facebook Picture Perfect Marriage

Today, marrying couples feel the need to document everything about their marriage, from their engagement through the honeymoon, on Facebook, Instagram and other social media. Those are happy occasions to remember, but what happens when the marriage does not go as planned?

As the Wall Street Journal reports, now that they have shared every relationship milestone online, how do you let everyone know that you’re about to divorce? The question became front page news this summer when actress Miley Cyrus and actor Liam Hemsworth posted Instagram photos with captions confirming the end of their seven-month marriage.

Back in January, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie’s divorce announcement. Divorce is painful at any age but can be particularly tough on anyone who has trumpeted about their solid marriage on social media and see its unraveling as a personal failure.

Today, about 30% of young adults ages 18-34 are married, compared with about 60% in 1978, according to the Census Bureau. Documenting one’s courtship and wedding on the internet can ratchet up the pressure to keep things picture-perfect-and in turn intensify the feelings of loss and shame if the relationship founders.

Florida Divorce and Social Media

The advent of the divorce selfie and online wedding announcement is not the first time I’ve written about the widespread use of social media in society, and how that impacts family court cases. Social media evidence is increasingly becoming important at trial – especially when it comes to authenticating exhibits in family court.

Some exhibits are so trustworthy they don’t even require a witness to authenticate. Evidence Rule 201 lists matters which a court must judicially notice, meaning a judge does not have discretion but to admit indisputable evidence.

The list is short, and includes laws of the Congress and Florida Legislature; Florida statewide rules of court, rules of United States courts, and U.S. Supreme Court rules.

Rule 202 includes even more matters, but also provides judges leeway in deciding whether or not to take judicial notice. For example, the statute allows a court to take judicial notice of facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the court”, and facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be questioned.”

But with the evidence of foreign governments using social media to spread disinformation and propaganda, and the widespread use of fake social media accounts, you have to start to wonder whether the genuineness assumption of evidence in family court still stands.

Governments manipulate photographs. It is not unheard of for spouses to hack computers and borrow smartphones to impersonate their owners’ texts. Anyone can set up a Facebook page, email, Instagram, or twitter account.

The Divorce Selfie

When Alexandra Eva-May’s marriage crumble after a year, she took a break from social media. She was 30 at the time and her feed was full of photos of happy couples. “It was definitely hard for me at first when I saw friends post about engagement and weddings,” says Ms. Eva-May, now 33 and a teacher in Edmonton, Alberta. “I was happy for people getting married but also really sad for what was going on in my life.

A few days after their divorce was finalized, one person posted a photo known as a “#divorceselfie,” on Instagram. In it, she has an arm around her ex, and holds their divorce papers. The caption says the split was amicable and that their children are “thriving.”

Divorce selfies are a new trend is spreading among young couples, who never learned about posting about their marriage online. Using the hashtags #DivorceSelfies and #DivorceSelfie, these newly-divorced couples are putting an unexpectedly uplifting spin on separation.

Each couple uses the unconventional post as a platform to announce their mutual dissolution. The posts typically include a photograph of the individuals celebrating the milestone in the courthouse, at a restaurant, or in the car.

The photos are often accompanied by overly-optimistic captions that attempt to portray the respect that remains between each pair:

“Divorce final today but I’ll always love this man,” and “here’s to the most friendly, respectful, and loving split imaginable.”

The Wall Street Journal article is here (paywall)