Divorce used to be a lot easier. Oh, not because of changes in divorce laws or family courts, but because the worst that could happen is that you'd cause a scandal in your neighborhood. Outside of maybe your mom, your close friends and your shrink, few knew all your dirty details.
Only the rich and famous had their breakup dramas exposed on the front page or turned into best-sellers, like Nora Ephron's Heartburn, a fictionalized account of how her husband, Watergate legend Carl Bernstein, dumped her.
But the Internet has changed that -- now everyone's dirty laundry can go viral. Exes can rant on Craigslist, vilify you on DontDateHimGirl.com or ihateher.com, send naked pictures of you over their cell phones or on YouTube, post nasty things on Facebook or tweet them on Twitter, and blog about what a no-good cheating jerk you are.
It's a really tough time to be an ex.
After a divorce, we're hurt, sad, angry, confused -- a bundle of emotions that need a healthy outlet to be expressed so we can eventually move on. Expressing sadness over a split may get you "liked" on Facebook and followers on Twitter, but dissing an ex online could get you sued. Pittsburgh lawyer Todd Hollis filed two lawsuits against Don'tDateHimGirl.com after some former women he dated accused him of being "a poorly dressed womanizer" and infecting women with herpes.
Last year, Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, SpaceX and electric car company Tesla Motors, responded to his ex-wife's blogging about him with a post on Huffington Post. "Much as one may wish for privacy, in the 21st century it just doesn't exist," he said. Nor does everyone have a platform to correct the record.
Two years ago, William Krasnansky, a soon-to-be ex-husband, was ordered by a Vermont court to stop posting a "thinly disguised, fictionalized account" of his crumbling marriage to Maria Garrido on his blog, which not only disturbed Garrido but a number of First Amendment experts as well.
And lawyers consider social media like Facebook to be a treasure trove of information that can screw up a divorce.
"It's a whole new area for the law to contend with," First Amendment scholar Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the law school at Washington and Lee University, told the New York Times. "It's a byproduct of the digital world meeting the ancient world of romance, and the law is struggling a lot to find the right balance."
But people are breaking up and moving on -- and online -- in the meantime. In a survey a few years ago, 20 percent of singles said it's OK to reveal details about a breakup on blogs or other social media. And if you do, there's a good chance that it will be read by the ex, or so says Ilana Gershon, assistant professor of communication and culture at Indiana University, in her book The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media. Of the nearly 70 college students she interviewed, many said they compulsively "Facebook stalked" their exes long past the breakup. But it didn't make them happy. "It's giving them 'hot Cheetos' of information, so they get a taste of something -- it tantalizes but doesn't satisfy. They wanted closure or wanted to know who their ex-lover was now with, and they never really felt like they got the answers they wanted," Gershon told Live Science.
It's tempting to tell-all -- misery loves company after all. But if your ex can stumble upon your rants about him or her, your kids can, too. You may be posting about all the bad things your ex did, but your kids don't necessarily share those feelings with you. And there are some things kids shouldn't know about their parents until after they pass, if then.
So the best thing you can do when you're an emotional mess over a breakup is hide your computer, or so says Scott Friedman, a motivational speaker who offers workshops for singles. "It's too dangerous to sit at the computer and write about how angry you are at your ex. You tend to exaggerate. You're better off just talking to a friend."
And not a Facebook friend, either.
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