Social media is one of the best and worst inventions of our modern society. The world suddenly became a much smaller place, one where deep connections are just a click away and lasting friendships are made without people ever meeting face to face. Social media has brought people together in spite of physical distances that may span hundreds (or even thousands) of miles. It’s an amazing gift but if I’m being completely honest, it’s an equally shitty curse.
When couples are breaking apart, social media drags that devastation to center stage, kicking and screaming until the wreckage is on display for all to see – whether we want to, or not. Unfortunately, I know from experience that popcorn tastes much better when you’re watching a blockbuster movie instead of watching a friend’s marriage implode.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed an awful trend in my Facebook feed recently. Perhaps it’s just that time of year when folks are making a fresh start of things, emerging from their winter hibernations to bask in the sunshine of an impending summer. What better way to share their recently-acquired joy with the world than by blasting social media with inspirational memes and photos of their new loves?
The thing is, it can be really hard to share in that “joy” when the jilted, soon-to-be-ex-spouse is just one more click away.
To give you an example, two of my friends, Mary and Joseph*, have known each other since they were young children. They were voted Most Sickeningly-Sweet Make-You-Wanna-Puke-They’re-So-Fucking-Cute Couple in high school. They eventually married and had two adorable yet slightly obnoxious kids, Mary Junior and Joseph Junior. Life was good.
Until it wasn’t.
Mary and Joseph separated about a year ago. Mary was (and still is) absolutely devastated because Joseph is the love of her life. I don’t know if she’ll ever recover, but I hope that with time, she will.
Joseph, on the other hand, has recently begun posting photos of himself and his new woman – Not Mary – on social media. Joseph and Not Mary are clearly infatuated with one another; he wears a goofy perma-grin and she calls him her “Honey Boo-Boo Baby Bear Sugar Nutsack,” or some shit like that.
It’s so fucking adorable – totes adorbs, if you catch my drift. I’m very happy for them. They’ll never know it, of course; I can’t “Like” any of their photos because I’m still friends with Mary.
And that makes me want to punch Joseph right between the eyes.
Look, I get it. Plenty of marriages end in divorce and in other breaking news, water is wet. But if you’re old enough to remember the glorious pre-social media days of wonder, you’ll recall that there was once an important buffer in place, one that protected the rest of the world from having to watch a relationship completely disintegrate before its very eyes.
That buffer was called “privacy.”
The arguments that happened behind closed doors typically remained there, with small bits and pieces wafting through the narrow gap between the door and the floorboards like a draft in reverse. One spouse told their friends part of the story while the other spouse probably did the same, and perhaps a bit of gossip surged along bitter air currents until the storm passed and the winds mercifully died out. New relationships emerged from the ruins, of course, but one could congratulate a new couple without “taking a side” in front of the entire world.
I don’t know what made people decide to put their lives on full display via social media, but I wish that we as a species would show a little more decorum where our personal relationships are concerned. Once something is out there on social media, you can’t take it back – not really. The delete button won’t erase screenshots or memories, nor will it reverse time to restore someone’s favorable opinion of you. Technology is not that advanced… yet. (There’s a Black Mirror episode in there somewhere, I know it.)
Perhaps too much of my life is spent walking in another’s shoes. Before I post anything on social media, I take a moment or three to consider how my words might affect others. As a writer for BLUNTmoms, I’ve openly embraced the ability to share some of my thoughts and experiences anonymously – not for my own protection, but to protect the privacy of others. Like I’m doing right now.
Because privacy is something that should be respected. Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost sight of that. When the tables could so easily be turned on us, it’s important to remember how far a little consideration and compassion can go. Romantic relationships, longterm friendships – anything that can be broken apart – their sadness and bitterness are amplified through social media and the wreckage it leaves behind is immeasurable. And permanent.
One day, probably much sooner than expected, the kids from Joseph and Mary’s relationship will stumble upon their parents’ posts and comments. That’s something to think about, and it’s something to learn from.
*names have been changed to protect the examples of what not to do