All human beings have three lives: public, private and secret.” — Gabriel Garcia Marquez
So it has come to this: Yet more proof, as if we needed it, that our dependence on technology is overwhelming and our addiction to social media potentially toxic.
Prenuptial agreements with a social media clause are on the rise. Yep, you read right. Before the exchange of rings, before the public declaration of love, before the sappy Best Man’s toast, couples are ensuring their privacy in print. They’re writing rules about what, when and how — sometimes even if — to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. Whether we realize it or not, who we are and what we’re shown doing on social media has become as important as the zeroes in our bank account. Celebrities learned that quickly enough, but us mere mortals, we take a bit longer to understand the ramification of online fiascos.
Raised eyebrows and snide comments aside, it’s a good thing savvy couples are seeking these agreements, and their existence should surprise no one, especially those of us who visit these sites often enough to witness occasions that have no business becoming public. At best, it may be a photo that captures someone in an unflattering pose. At worst it may show someone in an unfavourable light, one so glaringly bright that it damages how others judge the unfortunate soul. (Why people post pics of themselves drink in hand and glassy-eyed is confounding. Don’t they realize potential employers will prowl through their accounts?)
A social media prenup tries to address what’s acceptable to share online about each other and about the relationship. If terms of the agreement are not met, then there are serious consequences; namely, a hefty fine. I imagine this provision comes in handy during a divorce, when one party may be tempted to post incriminating pics or to divulge humiliating information. Typing fingers are hard to control, particularly when we’re angry or have revenge on the brain.
Examples of no-nos? Nude photos are banned as well as posts that may harm a significant other’s professional reputation. Those are the no-brainers. However, the situations that trip a couple up are the in-between, the subjective, the ones that may be considered hilarious by one spouse but mortifying by the other. After all, embarrassment tends to be random and personal.
I’ll give you an example. I’ve long been tempted to post a video of the Hubby fast asleep in his favourite easy chair, jaw open, TV blaring, arm hanging limp by his side. Just thinking about that scene makes me laugh aloud. I think it would elicit the same reaction in others. But if I shared this, I’m sure he’d have my head on a platter, and for good reason. As he is not on social media at all; he cannot retaliate with an equally mortifying situation.
More important, though, is that sharing without permission or regard for another’s feelings is a violation of a relationship’s most important commodity: trust. We seem to have forgotten that basic precept. Under the guise of connecting, we’re quick to the keyboard. Quick to rant. Quick to opine. These days an event is not real unless it’s shared — and liked and commented on by our legion of friends and followers. Ubiquitous smartphones make this kind of communication that much easier.
But not everything is intended to be shared, not every thought is meant to be made public. We’ve forgotten that. We’ve forgotten the divisions, the boundaries, the very preciousness of separating what is ours and no one else’s from the virtual world at large.
Apparently it may take a legal document to remind us.