16 May 2014

Until social media do us part

Suzanne Todd
Partner | UK

It is late at night, your mobile phone is glued to the palm of your hand and you are flicking through news, emails and assorted forms of social media.  Given the simplicity and speed with which various applications can be accessed, it is easy to let work and private life merge into one.  Easy, in fact, to like that photo of an old flame or send that flirty email to a work colleague.  In 2014, it is important to consider how private our private lives really are and how our actions on social media might impact on our relationships. The ‘danger' of social media to relationships has been well documented.  As long ago as 2004 the media was reporting about the impact of the now long forgotten website Friends Reunited on divorce rates.  Back then the internet site was described as a tool for disaffected husbands or wives wishing to pursue other relationships.  Today the options are far wider as dating websites offer a similar temptation for such spouses.  With names such as ‘Illicit Encounters', the implication is that marriage to someone else is not a bar, but even perhaps encouraged. Online virtual worlds such as Second Life have received considerable media scrutiny.  It turned out that living out your fantasies with other gamers in an alternative world might not go down too well with respective partners and spouses.  Media outlets were quick to pick up on stories of online ‘adultery' leading to divorce and, in some cases, of marriage between such ‘adulterers'; particularly so when the virtual rolled over into the real world. Facebook then allowed us to keep in contact with friends and work colleagues, both old and new, at all times of the day and night.  By 2011, reports suggested that Facebook was cited as a reason for divorce in approximately a third of divorces.  Whether it be discovering a spouse's flirty messages to another or a partner being tagged in a photo with a person unknown, with our Facebook profiles often left without security locks and our friendship circle extraordinarily wide, it is easy for friction and distrust to arise when a spouse views things not meant for their eyes. Cloud-based software, including Apple's iCloud, is now providing a further way for people to keep tabs on what their partners are doing, when not with them.  Such software means that the messages we send, the photos we share on Snapchat or Facebook and the activities we participate in on various apps on our mobile phones, are automatically synced up to our iCloud accounts.  Where iCloud accounts are shared by couples or as a family, partners and even children can potentially have easy access to sometimes seemingly incriminating email and photo exchanges. Today, the vast array of social media makes it all too easy to inadvertently raise suspicion from a spouse by your choice of who to ‘friend' on Facebook or what to tweet on Twitter.  The ability to keep our private choices private is fast becoming a luxury in a world where so much of it takes part in or leaves a ‘footprint' on the electronic world.  With access to this electronic world by others being so easy in the age of the iPhone, it is worth taking a little time to think before liking that photo or sending that late night email.  Such action, whether intentionally flirty or not, could have a serious effect on your relationships with friends and work colleagues and even on your marriage.  You have been warned. To view related topics to this please follow this link to our reputation management blog: www.withersworldwide.com/blog/category/reputation-management/

Category: Blog