Social media and online activity in general have become second nature to us in 2022. Younger people cannot remember a time when the internet did not exist, and when social media usage was not pervasive in our society. Older people have fully integrated themselves into the benefits of social media for keeping up with friends, and family and sharing silly memes. No matter your age it is likely that you utilize social media to some extent in a typical day.
Much of our social media use is done without even thinking about what we are doing or saying. I'm not a researcher or even a deep thinker about social media but there must be some relationship between how the social media creators have set up these platforms to lull each of us into a sense of security and detachment when we are using the websites or apps. Even though we all know the internet is a never-ending place where billions of eyeballs can fixate on whatever we post or share, that does not stop us from using social media for sometimes intimate reasons. Jumping online to share your excitement about a recent Astros win is one thing. But to share your frustration with something personal can be an entirely different subject altogether. At that point, you risk oversharing and putting yourself in a tricky position of having to explain to someone what you meant and how you meant it.
All of this is true even before we begin to consider the impact of social media on family law cases. Social media is a double-edged sword for most of us. While we can derive a certain benefit from social media use, mainly the connectivity between ourselves and those around us both near and far, there are also downsides to social media use. This is especially true for those of us who use social media regularly. If you open your favorite social media app and can see your history of posts or activity, then you should have a good idea of what sort of exposure you have in this regard. The more you are online and the more you utilize social media there is simply more “dirt” to dig through.
Even if you are not involved in a family law case you need to be cautious about what you post, share, and send regarding social media. Even if you think you can take something back or delete a post that you regret on social media it is likely true that someone who is motivated enough can go back and dig up what you said or did. For that reason, you should try to practice restraint in your social media activities no matter how difficult that may be. If you find that it is very difficult for you to do this, then you may be in a situation where you need to modify or even eliminate social media use for the time being.
This is especially true, however, when you are going through a family law case or anticipate a family law case being filed soon. In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to discuss social media use and its impact on a Texas family case. Specifically, we are going to examine how attorneys collect information to be used as evidence in family law cases. Questions about the material we share today can be directed to one of our experienced family law attorneys. A free-of-charge consultation with an attorney is only a phone call, office visit, or video chat away from you and your family.
Lawyers use social media, too
Your lawyer uses social media. It may not be for personal reasons why if your lawyer is a practicing family law attorney (like the ones with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan) he or she uses social media to learn more about you and the opposing party. Lawyers are not investigators or private detectives, mind you. We use social media just like your nosy friend from high school would. Nothing sophisticated but it can be useful to use social media just to scope out the situation and see what is going on in the lives of the people involved in a contentious family law case.
Since everyone and their mother (literally) uses social media these days it is no wonder that attorneys in the world of family law report that more and more evidence is being gathered using social media. When I say social media, I mean all sorts of digital, electronic, and internet-based sources that we use every day and don’t think twice about it. Here are some examples of how your use of technology generally and social media specifically can impact your case.
Text messaging is more frequently used than making telephone calls with our cell phones. I don’t have any data or studies to back that up, but I see people using their thumbs on their phones more than I see people talking on these phones. Texting is great because it allows us to send quick messages to a recipient without breaking stride. We could be moving the lawn, working, getting ready for an event, or anything in between. A text message takes relatively little thought to send and is quick even compared to making a phone call.
However, for all the same reasons why text messaging is great, it can also be a negative for us considering the impacts that text messaging has. For one, it is in writing- hence the term "text." Even though you may delete a text message your spouse or co-parent can save the messages that you attempted to get rid of. Even your cell phone provider may keep track of your messages. My point is that it is difficult to escape what you write in a text message no matter how hard you may try to do so. What you send cannot be easily destroyed and cell phone records tend to live on for a long while.
You should be careful about how you send text messages. If you are texting with an ex-spouse, it is a good idea to consider what you are saying and how you say it. For one, you never know how a text message will be interpreted by a recipient. For all the conveniences that a text message can provide us with, one disadvantage of text messaging is that you cannot use subtlety, tone, or sarcasm very well. You should be on guard not only for what you say but how you say it. It is a good idea, for example, to assume that anything you text to another person will see the light of day in a courtroom. Would that change how you approach the subject of texting?
Emails are like text messages in that emails tend to last a long time. If you send an email, it is safe to say the recipient will have a copy for many years, and any person that the original recipient sends it to will, as well. What makes email even more difficult to control is that you can often get involved in thinking through an email that you will be sending that you neglect to consider how someone uninvolved with those particular circumstances will come to view the email.
When I send emails, I always assume that someone who will not necessarily understand the context of my message will eventually read the message. How would that neutral person view the message and my wording? Words or phrases taken out of context can hurt you in a divorce. Do not allow yourself to be harmed by an innocuous message that otherwise looks bad for you. Be patient with others when sending emails, be polite, and try to act like what you write will be read by other people.
Another facet of email that we should consider is how hacking into email becomes an issue in many divorce cases currently. Maybe you and your spouse share an email address- in which case your spouse accessing your email would not be hacking at all. Or you may share a computer where you have saved your password for future email use. In this way, you can leave yourself very susceptible to your spouse or co-parent gaining access to information that you did not intend to.
It is a good idea to change or update your email password frequently. This is true not only so your spouse doesn't get into your messages but so nobody else does either. Do not give your spouse your email password unless you want to make sure he or she can read your messages and potentially use them in a divorce or child custody case against you. If you have saved your password on a computer at home, then you should consider removing that password for your good.
GPS technology has been used for many years to help people get from point A to point B, however, it can also be a useful tool to keep tabs on your spouse. Suppose that your spouse suspects you are having an affair. It would not be too difficult to stick a tracking device in your purse, on your vehicle or anywhere else you are sure to go to keep up with your movement across town. Your spouse can know where you go and when you go there without having to lift a finger.
What your opposing party can also do with GPS technology is use the technology to confront you if you are someplace that is suspicious in their eyes. If you are logged into your internet browser and you frequently check into certain places, then your spouse can always know of at least one place where you may be to cause a scene or otherwise embarrass you. Pay close attention to how you use GPS technology and whether it can create a paper trail about where you go and when you go there.
Finally, social media websites are probably the most widely used form of technology that we meet daily. You can engage with family and friends, learn a new skill, or post photographs from the most recent family reunion. However, you also need to bear in mind that the social media pages you frequent are being saved by the website and possibly by your opposing party.
I will recommend to clients that they take a break from social media use during a divorce. The juice, as they say, is simply not worth the squeeze. What you stand to gain from using social media during a divorce is almost surely not going to be worth the trouble that social media use during a divorce can cause. Even if you use social media simply to share photos or talk to relatives, I am almost certain that you all can figure out an alternate means of communication during the divorce itself. The more you go online and use social media during a divorce or child custody case the more temptation there will be. Remove yourself from proximity to social media during the divorce so you are not tempted to use it in a way that could be harmful to your case
One of the aspects of social media uses that you have little control over are the actions of a family member, friend, or coworker who decides to post a photo of you on the computer. The person's intention in posting a photograph of you may have been completely innocent and was intended to help remind you of a prior event that you all attended together. However, you probably would not be surprised to learn that many spouses or parents will use a completely innocent photograph to paint you as a bad actor or purposefully misinterpret your photo in some way.
How to treat social media during your divorce
As we mentioned a moment ago, it is wise to change or update any passwords that you use for the various social media platforms. Do not assume that your spouse will be unable to gain access to these passwords for any reason. Rather, there are ways for your spouse to access your e-mail and social media especially if you save the passwords on your computer for each account. By changing your password regularly, you limit the opportunity for your spouse to both steal your password and utilize it against your will.
Another item to consider is who can read your text messages. I do not even mean that you should think about who can take your phone and read your text messages. Sometimes if you are part of a group text your text messages can go out to family members that you are not close to. At that point, you do not know who can get their hands on your messages. You may have even forgotten that your spouse was a part of a text message group when you said something derogatory about him or her. Many people have accounts where their text messages can show up both on their phones and on a computer. Therefore, if you and your spouse share a home computer or desk then there is a chance that text messages that you send may show up on the computer while they are using it.
Creating a new e-mail account to correspond with your family or attorney during a divorce may be a good idea especially if you believe that your spouse has the password to your normal account. While you should not go so far as to you should take the time to consider the benefit of having a divorce case only account for keeping up with friends, family, and your legal representation. This would allow you to communicate electronically but would not put you in a position where you are susceptible to your spouse hacking into your private e-mail.
Finally, when it comes to social media there are a few steps and helpful tips that you can utilize to protect yourself from becoming overly susceptible to information stealing. First, you can limit who views your profile by making your profile private and not accepting additional followers for the duration of your divorce. You never know when one of those followers is a Trojan horse sent by your spouse to infiltrate your social media world. You can also update your settings on various social media websites to prevent your friends or family from tagging you on photos.
These are just a few tips that are simple to implement and can make large impacts across your case. However, if you have any questions about the material in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact our office today. Social media can be used for a lot of good, but it can also be utilized to harm you and your case.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.