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Facebook is Everywhere: Even in Your Divorce

Facebook is Everywhere: Even in Your Divorce

When a private investigator failed repeatedly to deliver a divorce summons to her husband, nurse Ellanora Baidoo asked the judge if she could get the job done via Facebook. Avoiding being served papers has been a common way to delay or stop a legal action and one that Baidoo’s husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, appeared to be employing.

When a process server is unable to contact a defendant, laws state that notice must be left at a last-known address or published in the newspaper. These two methods do not guarantee the defendant will know about the legal action, and he or she could use that in court to proclaim innocence.

The Manhattan judge who ruled in the wife’s favor explained, “The past decade has also seen the advent and ascendancy of social media . . . the next frontier in developing law of the service of process over the Internet is the use of social media sites as forums through which a summons can be delivered.” In England, serving court documents via Facebook has been accepted since 2012.

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Social Media and Infidelity

Facebook: The Virtual Pick-Up Lounge that’s Always Open

Convenient process serving isn’t the only way Facebook has been impacting modern divorce. According to Pew Study Research Center study, the Internet and American Life, one in five adults uses Facebook to flirt.  Fast-forward from that first innocent-seeming innuendo to a co-worker and it’s no surprise one-third of divorce petitions in the UK mentioned Facebook.

A 2015 study of 2,000 British citizens found one in seven respondents considered divorce because of their partner’s inappropriate activity on Facebook and other social media channels. The study also found that 25% had at least one argument a week related to social media use and 17% fought about it every day. In a chilling finding, 58% of respondents reported that they knew their partner’s passwords, either with or without the partner’s knowledge. Clearly, for a significant proportion of couples, Facebook detracts from rather than adds to their primary relationship.

Not surprising, American couples behave similarly to those across the pond. A survey conducted by American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported 81% of attorneys had seen an increase in mentions of Facebook and other social media networks in divorce petitions. The issues can be endless.

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Specific Facebook-related reasons for divorce mentioned in petitions include:

  • inappropriate messages
  • separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other
  • Facebook friends reporting spouses’ bad behavior

Couples worldwide haven’t yet grasped the impact of Facebook on their marriage. National Sleep Foundation studies reveal that 95% of Americans use electronic devices within one hour of bedtime. We’re combining activity on iPhones and iPads with slightly more passive television viewing as we multi-task. While the habit may have started innocently, Facebook updates and friend requests quickly lure us away from checking on family across the country or searching for a great restaurant for couples’ night for the upcoming weekend.

When Facebook Documents Too Much Evidence

Facebooking Illegal and Inappropriate Activity

Judges are allowing documents to be served via Facebook, and they use updates, profiles, friend connections and more from the channel as well. Petitioners and defendants trying to support their claims often find themselves undone by Facebook evidence.

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Some examples of real evidence attorneys have presented or face include:

  • a selfie photo of a marijuana-denying mother smoking a joint
  • a match.com profile of a custody-seeking man claiming he has no children
  • statements in updates and profiles that indicate personality disorders and anger issues

Once it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever.

Facebook Dos and Don’ts during Divorce

Don’t post while tired, emotionally overwrought or drinking

While Facebook can feel like a forum of friends to whom you turn for sympathy and support, it can have more negative impacts. Extreme emotion, fatigue and alcohol render reality in all kinds of exaggerated shapes and colors. Do yourself a favor and find another way to vent when in these conditions.

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Instead of venting your frustrations on your social media, use your social network to relieve stress. Get together in person with friends rather than connect with people via social media. Consider divorce support groups where people experiencing the same issues and feelings can lean on each other.

Consider, too, that messages posted to your wall may evoke sympathy and support from SOME friends, but don’t forget that you’re sending these to acquaintances and friends of friends as well. The majority may stay silent, but they will judge nonetheless. They may not see the situation as you do.

Turn off location-indicators

If you “check-in” at bars, concerts or other venues that will render a reaction in an ex and his or her friends, life becomes fraught with even more conflict. A screenshot of this “check-in” could appear in court, putting you in a poorer negotiating position for alimony, child support and custody.

Consider Unfriending Some

If you’ve had a Facebook account for over three years, you probably still have connections there you don’t even remember friending. Some of these people may take your ex-spouse’s side in the divorce. Even if they strive to stay neutral, it may be the time to review and strategically cut a few. You can send a polite message apologizing and remarking that you feel uncomfortable with the Facebook connection at this time.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Leuthard via flickr.com

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Peter Mueller

Founder of Father's Rights Law Center

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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