Jenny Kanevsky explains the perils of staying connected to your ex and your old, shared life on social media and her choice to cut all ties.
Dividing up a life, decades of a life, isn’t easy. There is so much to decide. Who gets the sofa? What about the kitchen table? And that’s just material. What about the friends? How do you divide people?
Today, feeds show up, chat boxes appear; your thoughts and whereabouts are not private; unless you deliberately and consciously make them so.
My husband of 17 years and I are getting divorced. We each have separate friends, and since we recently moved to a new state, not as many couple friends, so we’re less enmeshed than many. But what about Facebook? Social media friendships have tentacles that reach beyond single connections, as anyone who has been tagged in a photo or status update knows. Suddenly, you are on a thread with comments from a stranger, a friend of a friend, or someone you’d prefer to avoid. Today, feeds show up, chat boxes appear; your thoughts and whereabouts are not private; unless you deliberately and consciously make them so.
My parents didn’t have this problem when they divorced. People didn’t admit it outright, but they inevitably took sides. One parent stopped getting invited to events, found new interests and friends, and things settled out. I’m sure there were hurt feelings and awkward encounters. Sometimes friendships overlapped, and some shouldn’t have. At one point, my dad dated and lived with a woman who was a tangential friend of my mom’s. So, my sister and I lived there part time too. It was dysfunctional and selfish on their part; they were only together a few years. But for my mom, me, my sister and the woman’s son, those were long and difficult years. To add to the twist, now, she and my mom are great friends. Honestly, I try not to think about it, because it makes my head spin.
I have been on Facebook since 2008 and have built a sizable community of friends, nostalgic connections, and an invaluable writing/blogging network.
I have been on Facebook since 2008 and have built a sizable community of friends, nostalgic connections, and an invaluable writing/blogging network. My soon-to-be-ex teased me at first: I was wasting my time, I wasn’t 20 anymore, who did I think I was on hanging out on Facebook?
Often, as was the case in our marriage, his teasing turned to disdain. I did it anyway. It was for me. I reconnected with old friends and bonded with new ones. Sometimes, I overdid it, but I learned my Facebook boundaries. Today, seven years later, Facebook is the social media platform that works for me, as a stay-at-home mom with little adult interaction during the day, as a writer, and as a person who enjoys networking in every way, professionally, socially, and nostalgically.
As a blogger, I would not have my current readership or reputation without Facebook. I am in multiple blogger groups and am connected worldwide with other writers, many of whom have become close friends; real you-can-count-on-me friends despite us never having met in real life. Since August 2014, when I began blogging in earnest, I have been featured on multiple websites and am now a regular contributor on multiple blogs, including The Good Men Project. I am published in three anthologies, have made deep and lasting friendships, and have grown professionally and personally.
What started as a way to share pictures of my aren’t-they-cute kids and post status updates such as “Snow Day Tomorrow! No school” to a small group of friends has now become my creative outlet, my network for writing opportunities, and my support system outside my local friends, and it has spurned a creative and personal reinvention.
While we were married, although my soon-to-be-ex was not interested, he reaped the networking rewards I provided. I was in touch with people he knew, people we knew together, and contacts from my former places of work. He and I met at a small start-up company during the dot.com boom; we were like families then. I worked in software, at both small and large firms, for almost a decade. When he was job-hunting, for example, I could quickly identify former colleagues at this or that company and help him in his search. So he had his disdain and his Facebook too.
Aside from finding such sharing inappropriate, especially in the early days of a major life change, I was friends with his father and step-mother, his brother, and multiple mutual friends.
And then, we split up in a fairly unexpected way. I was hurt, angry, betrayed; it was a difficult time. I did not change my relationship status or make a Facebook announcement. Aside from finding such sharing inappropriate, especially in the early days of a major life change, I was friends with his father and step-mother, his brother, and multiple mutual friends. I shared my news quietly in private blogger and other friend groups, messaging friends, getting my support privately, but suddenly, Facebook felt different. Over the years, my engagement had shifted from personal daily socializing to a way to connect with my far-flung blogging community. I knew I would be blogging about this life change, and I needed a safe space to do so, but Facebook wasn’t safe anymore.
And then, two days, I am not kidding, two days after dumping me, my soon-to-be-ex joined Facebook and sent me a friend request. My stomach dropped. Immediately, I thought of the people with whom we would overlap. How could I be myself on Facebook with him there? Of course he had every right to be there, but as my friend? I did not accept his request, but anyone on Facebook knows, nothing is sacred when one has mutual friends. Hence, the reason I had to unfriend and even block his mother. Aside from never liking me, she had a habit of commenting on my posts with inappropriate boundary-busting jabs, and since she was friends with his step-mother and his brother, if I interacted with them, I was exposed.
And then, two days, I am not kidding, two days after dumping me, my soon-to-be-ex joined Facebook and sent me a friend request.
I understood his decision to join. Suddenly, he had disconnected from his sons’ mother and his social networker. What about the cute things the boys said on a daily basis, things we used to share as a couple, the pictures I’d text during the day? All of that would be gone, so he wanted that, without having to deal with being my husband, by being my Facebook friend. For one thing, I rarely share personal anecdotes anymore and for another, just no. I declined. We could figure a way to stay up-to-date on our boys’ lives, but I was not comfortable being his Facebook friend. And then I realized, in order to feel like I still had my community, my safe place, I had to unfriend everyone with whom we overlapped.
At first, it was scary and then, surprisingly easy and empowering. I didn’t think about offending anyone, or causing any behind-my-back talk. I remembered my commitment. Protect yourself. This space is yours; it might as well be your office. As a writer, blogger, and website contributor who thrives on likes and shares and reach, he’s trying to get a job in your office. No.
Of course, this is not gender specific. If you are a man going through a divorce and your ex is moving in on your personal space via social media, you have ways to keep your community your own. There’s the unfriend button, there’s not responding to messages or friend requests. It’s certainly a new problem, at least for me. This is my first breakup in the age of social media.
As a writer, blogger, and website contributor who thrives on likes and shares and reach, he’s trying to get a job in your office. No.
As for friends in real life, so far so good; our neighbors, who know us both, see me regularly because I live in the house, for now. He makes his own plans to stay in touch by connecting to watch the game, or play golf. Our individual friends remain just that.
However, social media is a tangled and far-reaching web of connections: status updates, security settings, and comments and before you know it you are in a thread with people with whom you may not wish to engage. You have to think these things through. Just because your ex can join, and he or she has every right to, doesn’t mean you have to share the space. Do what works for you. I’m free when I can be myself and share my voice and my writing with my Facebook community—my ex not included.
The Facebook divorce has its own set of challenges but none you cannot overcome. For me, I don’t do things for fear of offending someone if it will hurt me. Nobody wins there. And, I have told some people, yes I did unfriend you, but we can stay in touch in this other way. Friends, real friends, figure out ways to stay friends, either on or off Facebook.
Definitely a great idea. Social media is a huge factor in a lot of divorces. And during divorce, it can cause serious problems – my advice is to just STAY AWAY! Duirng my first divorce, my Ex would post about his feelings on Facebook and even thouhg he never mentioned me directly, everyone knew who he was talking about! It was horrible and just made me hate him more. During my second divorce, we were able to settle things amicably (thank God!) and get on with out spending so much. STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. P.s. I would recommend http://www.thistoo.co to… Read more »
This is the first time to use the service of Robinson(@yahoo).com It felt good to have my lover back again through the help of Robinson
A your ex’s uncle, I understand why you blocked or removed common freinds, like me. It is sad to see people break up but it happens. I understand how you feel as I felt the same way when I devoted my wife but I worked through it. As one of those you will unfriend it will be my lose. I want you to know I will miss you. I know we did not communicate much but when we did I found you a very interesting person. From your first book to your standup experience, it made me feel like if… Read more »
Odd I just went thru my FB friend list and deleted people that were friends with both of us and for good reason – My ex husband an abusive drunken cheat thief and a liar ( this is the short list) who made my life hell and these “friends” knew what was happening. I feel better now
I was never on FB with my ex-husband. But soon after he left, he took up with a woman (a FB fiend) and was on FB with her parents and brother within 3 months of our breakup. The GF then became friends with a few of his siblings, and since they’ve been together they’ve acquired many mutual friends. I can’t imagine the fallout should they ever break up. I know that the majority of their friends are actually her friends based around her job and social life, and he’s become totally enmeshed and has been portraying himself completely differently to… Read more »
I had a nightmare divorce. Now I’m struggling with the fact that he is friending many of my family members. I have a few that he comments on so many of their posts and they on his. He even tags them on a regular basis. I will not block him because he posts stuff to our 15 year old daughter and sometimes it’s not appropriate. Then I make her remove it. I’m thinking about deleting my family that he friended but feel rude without saying something first. What should I do?
My ex was very abusive. He lied and cheated and now thinks we should be friends. I did this same thing and I have had to defend the decision. It sucks that people can’t or won’t understand what I went through and that having no mutual friends is a boundary for me and it is a healthy boundary.
Been there, unfriended that. I did it after one of his younger cousins called me whiny and made other comments about how it was a given that he would leave someone like me. After tearing him up the the insensitivity of any internet troll I went through and deleted anyone who I didn’t feel was supportive with the exception of his mother.. Because she wouldn’t see the kids any other way and she was always a doting grandmother. But I’ve hidden her from my feed so I don’t have to see her posts about her great son. And I don’t… Read more »
I’ve had to do this before, not for a wife but for a longterm girlfriend. I felt bad about a few of them because there were a few of her friends that I really genuinely liked, but I had to move on with my life and couldn’t deal with the constant updates and hearing about how happy she was in her new life. Had to sever all ties in order to move on.
Just want to say, i feel what you wrote should be for all break ups. Good and bad. I am still friends with my ex who is was with for 10 years, both on and off facebook. But when we moved apart, some of his friends that had friended me, removed me. I wish i had taken that step first, right after we moved apart. Now we have barely any mutual friends on fb and i find i am a lot happier for it. Even when the breakup is amicable (as ours was) you still have to remove most, if… Read more »
Social media is fluid. Maybe real friends aren’t. You did the right thing. You can adjust later if you want to. Or not. I am so proud of you.
Yikes! I neve thought about the social media aspect and the sides that are taken. Trash the tentacles and be free!!
I’m (still) married, but not sure where it’s headed. We have been best friends for 25+ years, married since 2005, but you never really know someone until you’re locked in a room with them and thrown a million different challenges. *Sigh* I’m glad FB allows us to mess with privacy controls, so I can wean off those who we feel aren’t supportive. I’ve already taken off the MIL and blocked her from both of my pages so she’d have less to “talk about” me at Club Narcissism. As for friends… You find out who your REAL ones are very quickly… Read more »
Yep. Makes perfect sense.
I made it a policy to NEVER allow my MIL on my FB. *shudder* That way lies madness.
Like you, FB is both a social thing, and a writer-networking-work-thing. I don’t want to have to put false limits on myself, for fear of someone losing their minds.
I think this reality becomes a must eventually if you will ever move on in a healthy way. It took me a year, but one night I sat down and deleted about 40 people that we had in connection. It was such a sad one way breakup in the moment, but almost instantly I felt free. That was over a year ago and I have never regretted the decision to make my social media network a “past-life” free zone.
April, I know about blocking, and thanks for the tip. There was also, and I hope the piece got this message across, a need to have something separate. Blocking feels sneaky, saying no to him was empowering.
Hi, as an FYI: You can block him, as you did his mother who was bothering you, and he and she won’t be able to see any of your posts, even on other people’s feed. Anything having to do with you just won’t come up, and vise versa.
I unfriended and blocked my ex. I did not want to see her new life with the man she left me for… Not happening!
Good article…! My BFF divorced and she kept away from her toxic ex-spouse IRL as much as she could…on FB she was not his “friend” but she could spy on him through mutual friends/contacts…it was just weird funny how he was one way IRL (i.e.; insane, bipolar, and psychopathic) and how he presented himself on FB….