By Paula Murphy
Apparently almost one in five Divorce Petitions are now based on allegations that their spouses have done something inappropriate with someone else on Facebook. Flirty emails and messages found on Facebook pages are increasingly being cited as evidence of unreasonable behaviour. Certainly, in my experience as a family lawyer, Facebook has been blamed by an increasing number of clients over recent years. When I first started work as a Solicitor the majority of Divorce Petitions were based on the other party’s unreasonable behaviour and usual scenarios were disgruntled wives fed up with their husbands’ drinking and philandering ways, coming home in the early hours of the morning with lipstick on collar smelling of “Charlie”; or poor husbands driven to breaking point awaiting the onslaught of PMT. These days, however, reported statistics are showing that around a third of all Divorce Petitions issued now contain the name of a social network site.
However, is it right that Facebook should be blamed for causing, or contributing to, failed marriages? I don’t think so. It is not Facebook’s fault that it is being dragged through the Divorce Courts; it is the people who use it. At the end of the day social networking is a fact of life. People socialise, whether it be through wine bars, bingo halls, discos, the work place, etc. The list is endless. However, the difference between gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes across opposite tables during a game of bingo and a social network site like Facebook, is the fact that you are leaving a digital footprint with a click of a button. Any pattern of behaviour as recorded on Facebook relating to parenting skills, excessive partying or disparaging remarks about an ex could be admissible in Court. Current research is suggesting that more and more employers use Facebook profile checks to screen potential job candidates who are then being rejected for posting inappropriate photos or making reference to excessive drinking or drug use.
However, Facebook also presents opportunities for applicants to present themselves well. Is “shoulder surfing” acceptable? Shoulder surfing is a term to describe employers requiring job applicants to log into their social media accounts during the interview, so that the interviewer can examine the applicants page in full. Apparently, when this tactic hit the press the response was that applicants would simply delete or deactivate their Facebook pages. However, according to various reports, not having a Facebook page proved to be detrimental to job seekers, as it made interviewers “suspicious” that the job applicant was hiding something!
I made mention to romance in a bingo hall, but personally, I am quite partial to a game of cards. As my mother once told me, marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning all you need is two hearts and a diamond, but by the end you wish you had a club and spade. I jest: all marriages are happy! It’s the living together afterward that causes all the trouble!