How the trend for 'Facebragging' could be fuelling divorce
In years past the task of impressing one’s friends and neighbours involved the straightforward - if expensive - urge to rush out and buy the latest gadget or embark on some grand home improvement.
But in the age of social media, when Facebook timelines have become a parade of other people’s smiling babies, idyllic holidays, culinary miracles, marathon times or stellar career moves, those determined to equal or outdo their peers face a herculean task.
Now divorce lawyers say the tend for so-called 'Facebragging' – using social media to show off under the guise of "sharing" news – is even helping fuel marital breakups as more couples succumb to pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations.
While the old maxim that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence has long been familiar to divorce lawyers, social media has helped take discontent to new levels, they believe.
The internet has previously been blamed for fuelling break-ups because people's bad behaviour was being exposed.
Now it appears an even greater stress on marriage comes from dissatisfied spouses looking online and seeing behaviour which is too good to be true.
Holly Tootill, a family lawyer with JMW Solicitors, which handles just over 300 divorces a year, said around one in five marital splits on the firm's books involve spouses complaining about their “imperfect” marriages.
Social media has became a major conduit for discontent and unrealistic expectations, she said.
“There is a relatively small percentage of cases in which individuals are encountering evidence of improper behaviour by their partners on social media,” she said.
“But it is, if you like, the volume and frequency of apparent perfection portrayed on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and in lifestyle and entertainment magazines which is a far greater problem.
“Family, friends and businesses are so keen to use social media, in particular, as a means of promotion that spouses are being exposed to lots of very positive imagery.
“It all looks so glamorous and so very exciting that people make negative comparisons with their own home lives and their husbands or wives as a result.
“They seem unable to accept what they see as something of a show and not necessarily representative of daily reality for the majority of people.
“More and more clients tell us that they regret how their marriage isn’t perfect in the way that they were led to believe it might be.
“In our experience, the perception that they have failed to attain domestic perfection is rarely – if ever – the only factor in a divorce.
“The pressure which it creates, however, exacerbates existing tensions or fractures in relationships across almost all age groups.”
Photographs – often carefully selected to show people in the best light before being shared – can prove particularly toxic in some contexts, she added.
In some cases husbands or wives have put pressure on each other to be as glamorous as their friends’ spouses, as portrayed on social media.
“There are countless complaints about fitness and weight,” she said. “Couples are under so much pressure to maintain a perfect image.
“Some husbands have threatened to end their marriages and take up with someone else if their wives do not maintain the toned physiques of some of their peers on social media.
“Other marriages have fallen apart because of the strain which the economic downturn has had on the family’s lifestyle.
“As the recession hit, couples had to budget and, on one occasion, a spouse simply tired of having to buy counterfeit luxuries in order to keep up the appearances with those in their social circle as a result.”