Social Media as Evidence: Your Posts Don’t Lie

Advances in technology have now made the world’s wisdom accessible to pretty much anyone with a smart phone or computer. Arguably even more astounding than the efficiency and productiveness flowing from this kind of access is the level of connection achievable between people from different parts of the country… or different countries… or different continents. From texting and direct messaging to posting statuses, pictures, videos, and locations, social media has revolutionized the way society communicates. Every day more and more people are putting their lives online for everyone they want to share information with and truthfully some they probably don’t.

It is likely that at some point in time you have been told to consider the cost of hitting “send” or “post” on social media before doing it. For example, should that picture from 3 a.m. last Saturday really be available to everyone? What about that status raising cane against your careless uncle Joe for backing into your car? The reason for this instruction is to reiterate the broad accessibility and eternal permanency of sharing information through the Internet. Unfortunately, though, many people still fail to see the laundry list of unintended consequences that may result from even just one poorly thought-out post.

Many employers have openly begun monitoring current employee’s social media accounts or combing through posts of a potential employee before an interview. But even if you don’t “clean” your accounts well enough, the worst that can happen is losing a job… right? No. Actually, your social media accounts could end up being used as evidence against you in court. A survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2010 found that 81% of divorce attorneys had seen an increase in evidence taken from wireless devices and 66% cited Facebook as the source of this evidence. Social media can be used as evidence to prove a variety of things like your opinions or thoughts, the time and place of your actions, communications or interactions with others, and even your income or purchases.

According to Washington family attorney McKinley Irvin, one reason social media accounts create relationship problems is because of the amount of time spent on them. A study published in Computers in Human Behavior showed that a 20% increase in Facebook enrollment equated to a 2.18% to 4.32% increase in divorce rates. If you’ve ever looked around a crowded restaurant at lunchtime, this statistic should not come as a shock. The number of people staring at their phones instead of conversing with their present company is staggering. If the quality of conversation in a social setting this low, it is easy to see how the same behavior at home could quickly destroy emotional connections and ultimately derail a marriage.

Attorney Irvin states that social media also creates an easy outlet for jealousy or distrust to flourish in a relationship. In fact, one in five people claim that they question their relationship after finding something suspicious on their partner’s social media account. Unfortunately, sometimes suspicions of infidelity are well warranted. Approximately one in ten people admit to hiding messages or social media posts from their partner and 8% of people even admit to having secret social media accounts. With all of this on the table, it is not surprising that one in three divorces are actually instigated because of online communications or affairs.

It is important to remember that even if your social media accounts are private, you can still legally be required to provide information from them during a lawsuit. Deleting anything will usually violate a court order and is unlikely to be effective anyway. As previously stated, information is never really gone once it is online. If you’re in the middle of a lawsuit, the best advice is to deactivate your social media accounts until the matter is settled.

The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole has the expertise to handle many types of family law cases. If you or someone you know is looking for a divorce or child custody attorney, please don’t hesitate to call us. We would be happy to help you obtain justice as efficiently and inexpensively as possible regardless of whether you or your spouse has committed an online “faux-pas.”

Written by Jessica Jasper, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, Mississippi College School of Law

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