Social media is a little like a torrid love affair that ends poorly, if you’re not careful.
At first, things are wild and fun. You’re all like, “Yeah, why not post this picture of me doing body shots? I’m only young once!” But then, things settle into a boring relationship — much like a Facebook news feed — and before you know it, you’re private messaging an ex “just to catch up.”
Unlike a torrid love affair, though, you can’t just walk away from social media. It’s out there forever, and if you’re not careful, those body shot pictures and intimate messages with an ex can show up in a court of law or a revenge website, particularly during the demise of a relationship. Whoops.
High-stakes consequences in the age of social media
Gemma Allen, a prominent Chicago divorce lawyer and co-author of The New Love Deal, is all too familiar with the terrible consequences of unwise social media usage by bickering partners. “Social media has doomed the custody hopes of some parents who have otherwise portrayed themselves as sober and responsible people,” she explained. “One unfortunate online photo of someone falling down drunk or behaving inappropriately while partially dressed can wreak havoc on a court case and a reputation.”
I know what you’re thinking: Your partner would never use online pictures, messages or profiles against you. That certainly may be true, but Allen stated that you should be careful about everything that you digitally share. “When you’re in the ecstasy of love, you cannot imagine how your beloved might betray you, but nowadays betrayals can literally go viral and stalk your reputation forever,” she said.
Protecting yourself from social media fallout
Cautious social media use is one way to protect yourself, but what if the internet is already littered with images of your wild nights? Or what if your very livelihood depends on a stellar reputation? When caution simply doesn’t cut it, Allen suggests that couples employ social media clauses.
Yes, the term “social media clause” is about as romantic as a cold shower, but it’s hard to argue against its wisdom in the age of the internet. The clause is part of a prenuptial agreement, and it assigns costs and fines should your spouse or partner try to use social media accounts against you. “Social media clauses are a good deterrent to potential betrayals,” said Allen, “and can reassure both you and your partner that your reputations will be valued and respected.”
Whether or not a social media clause makes sense for your situation, its very existence is a good reminder that you should treat your social media accounts as though the whole world is watching. Good luck out there — it’s a battlefield.