A recent report states that Facebook was mentioned in one-third of all divorce cases in 2011. Oddly, the story didn’t say what was mentioned in the other two-thirds of divorces. I would guess drinking, drugs, cheating, gambling and violence popped up quite a bit, with an occasional mention of man caves, tattoos, topless bars, video games, secret second families, unemployment, child endangerment, immaturity, desertion and “irreconcilable differences” (as if all the other reasons are reconcilable).
So, obviously, Facebook is the No. 1 problem. Say you learn that your husband is cheating on you from a “friend” on Facebook. Is Facebook really the problem? Of course it is. Your husband wouldn’t have cheated if he knew you would find out about it so soon. He was hoping you would find out years from now, after the affair was over, so he could say: “Stop digging up the past. It’s over; it’s time to move on. That was years ago. I have a completely new girlfriend now. Why is Facebook trying to wreck our happy home?”
Trashing Facebook is a story that almost writes itself, whereas writing about people who should never have gotten married in the first place is a little more difficult. Married and pregnant at 16 and it didn’t work out? Blame Facebook. Life didn’t become a fairy tale after marrying the boss, who still treats you like an employee? Blame Facebook.
Writing about the evils of Facebook is easy, especially for those people who can see no earthly reason to be on Facebook. “I already have plenty of friends,” is an oft-heard comment.
I, too, have a problem with Facebook, even though I use it and even though I suffer from OCD (obsessive computer disorder), a malady that makes me check the balance of my IRA 10 times a day and my email 10 times an hour. But if my marriage ever goes south, it will be because I am a jerk and not because I started posting pictures of cute cats on Facebook.
There’s plenty to criticize FB for — its huge invasion of privacy, for one. If your friends don’t already know your birthday, are they really your friends? Or are they identity thieves? Why would you broadcast this kind of information to strangers on the Internet? If Facebook asked for mothers’ maiden names and Social Security numbers, there is no doubt most users would willingly provide them.
The hype over Facebook’s initial public offering was also disturbing. “Facebook already has 900 million members. Look how fast it has grown,” my stock-buying friends say. But do you really think there is someone out there who wants to be on Facebook but just hasn’t had time to sign up? Facebook has all the members (within a few hundred million) it is ever going to get. It is not going to grow. As a matter of fact, it is going to shrink as other, more discriminating social networks proliferate.
You may already have plenty of friends, but do you have the right friends? Even with the iffy IPO, Facebook will make scads of money. It has only 3,500 employees. Compare that to the 200,000 at General Motors or the 500,000 at the U.S. Post Office. Facebook lets its computers do all the work; it’s not the kind of business that needs a lot of hot bodies. It will make a ton of money on advertising, but that doesn’t mean the Johnny-come-lately IPO investors will make any money. It’s Apples and Googles.
So does Facebook cause divorce? The spouses who mention Facebook in their filings would have gotten divorced anyway, I’m sure. But I wonder how many people have caught up with old flames on Facebook and gotten married? How many weddings have taken place because of Facebook and other social networks? Should there be two sides to this story?
No, of course not. Whatever was I thinking?
Jim Mullen’s newest book, “How to Lose Money in Your Spare Time — At Home,” is available at amazon.com. You can follow him on Pinterest at pinterest.com/jimmullen.