Untying the Knot in the Digital Age

unfriend your ex on facebookThis is an article I wrote for a divorce recovery book. I hope you find it useful…

You already know about splitting up the checking account, figuring out what happens to the bank loans and your cars, and even have started to discuss who gets the family dog and that great bunk bed that your daughter’s loved forever but you want to keep, but in the 21st Century, a lot of us have an entire digital world that we need to figure out too.

Friends with your ex on Facebook? It’s complicated. For sure. Still connected via Foursquare or listed as referrals for each other on LinkedIn? It’s definitely complicated.

How you navigate these tricky new waters will definitely be different than how I did it when I got divorced, but I can share some basic ideas and hopefully it’ll spark a strategy of your own that will minimize the upset and let you start getting on with your life and healing.

1. It’s Okay Not To Be Friends

One of the very first things I did when my ex and I separated was parallel that separation in the online world. Most importantly, that meant “unfriending” her on Facebook. I didn’t change my status to “single” immediately, but since I see my online circle of friends as a support group for when things were tough, the last person I wanted to have see my updates was my ex, especially if it was something related to a meeting we’d had, an argument or a difficult situation.

I suppose you could feel guilty about severing this digital tie, but to me it’s actually quite healthy because at this point in your life, you and your partner are separated and on the probable path to divorce, so why would you want to stay together online?

There’s also an emotional part to this too. Imagine how you’d feel if you were sitting at home, sad and depressed one evening a month or two into your divorce and your ex posts a status update like:

Met the most AMAZING guy tonight. So happy. Flying to Vail with them on Wednesday!

It’s okay to accept that things are going to hurt, it’s going to be a bumpy journey, this divorce thing. But just as you really don’t want to be spying on your ex from behind the foliage, you don’t want to be reading their updates — or having them read yours — in the online world.

So unfriend. It’s not hard.

2. Don’t Play Check-In Games Together

My ex isn’t much into technology — a lot of it just baffles her — but I love all the accouterments of our modern electronic age and so does my entire social circle. One of these digital toys is a mobile game called Foursquare (see www.foursquare.com) where as I travel through my day, I “check in” on my smartphone and it then broadcasts that to my friends. Their check-ins similarly are shared with me, so we all know where each other is at any given time of the day.

It turns out to be really fun because then you can drop in on friends and they can change their plans to intercept you after seeing you check in to a popular restaurant or café. As an example, a few months ago I was working at a Starbucks in downtown Denver and checked in, by habit. Turns out a good friend was two doors away and when she saw my checkin on her screen, she walked over and we spent 30 minutes catching up. Digitally assisted serendipity, what’s not to like?

Unless one of the people in your Foursquare circle is your ex. Then you can look forward to seeing him check in at a popular hotspot with nine others, or her checking in to a local bar at 1am. Do you want to know that sort of thing? No, you don’t. Trust me on this.

So just as I suggested you unfriend your ex on Facebook, I’ll also recommend you disconnect from them in Foursquare and any other similar geolocation check-in game. Unless you’re the one in a thousand who hasn’t a jealous, envious, sad, upset bone in your body, it’s eventually going to be upsetting when they’re checking in somewhere cool and you’re, well, not.

3. Filter Them Out of Your Email Inbox

Unfortunately, my ex has remained consistently hostile and rude in the many years since we’ve divorced. She’s an outlier and most divorces settle down after a year or two, but when everything was fresh, every email interchange was another chance to read something that upset me and lose my concentration at work, newfound happiness at home or even to interrupt my social activities thanks to omnipresent smartphone email services.

To solve the problem, I early on created a folder called “Family” (I didn’t even want her name on the folder list) and set up what’s called an email filtering rule so that any email from her automatically moved into the aforementioned folder rather than sitting in my inbox.

Simple, straightforward, and I continue to have it working today. It lets me look at the folder and see what’s going on when I’m ready to do so, not whenever the messages appear in my mailbox and distract me.

Very useful and something you can set up with just about any email system available. Just look in the help system for “filters” or “filtering”.

In Conclusion

It’s a brave new world, this online thing, and while it’s easy to see how it can help you stay in touch with friends and family, it’s a bit trickier to understand how to manage things when you go through something as painful and difficult as a divorce. Are they going to get upset if you unfriend them? Are your friends going to make comments? Are you trying to keep the entire divorce thing a secret and are afraid someone will notice?

Spend some time thinking about what’s best for you in this situation. One of the lessons of a divorce for many people is that it’s not about someone else, it’s not about your family, it’s not about your parents, your children, or your old college chums. It’s about you.

So think about what’s best for your heart, for your journey towards being healed. And do it.

Good luck.

One comment on “Untying the Knot in the Digital Age

  1. Good advice and I think a lot of it applies not just to divorces, but to break-ups. Even if you are still friends, it can be painful to see your ex “move on” to new relationships or awkward for you to give attention to someone new.

    However, even if you’re not “Facebook friends” with your ex, I would say, in general, it’s not a great idea to use Facebook as a way of getting support when you’re frustrated or have had a fight with the ex (or anyone). Often, even though YOU are no longer “friends” with the ex, others in your circle still are, and they may feel put in the middle. Also, I believe if they comment on your post and they’re still friends with your ex, he/she may get wind and either still be able to see the thread (depending on privacy setting.) I’d say save the venting sessions for a more private venue.

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