I got on the Facebook bandwagon in 2008, posting some snarky tidbit about my intolerance for listening to whining children while in the dentist’s chair, even though I had three whiners of my own at home. I felt silly doing it and even more ridiculous when a colleague of my then-husband remarked about what I was up to during the day. It was a new dawn for oversharing, and an era I didn’t realize at the time would come to serve me well in more meaningful ways than I could ever have anticipated.
Four years after that post, my husband and I separated, leaving me to scale a learning curve for a word which had once been utterly irrelevant to me: divorce. Facebook, and, later, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and, most recently, Instagram became the major players through which I would research divorce, figure out how to survive it, and thrive as a result of going through one, including starting a business.
People in the middle of a divorce often choose to shun social media. They may fear retaliation from their ex for speaking out, want to protect their privacy, or because they are just unaware of its various uses and how helpful social media can be to them on their path to recovery. Though I never planned to use social media for anything more than staying in touch with friends and relatives, and for my amusement, here’s what social media invariably taught me about divorce, ultimately helping me to survive it.
There were others out there like me.
As it turns out, thousands of people in the U.S. get divorced every day. According to the CDC, in 2018, the divorce rate was 3.2 per 1,000 people, with 44 states and Washington D.C. reporting (not 50 percent, the misstated number frequently referenced when discussing U.S. divorce rates). There were also thousands more who were already divorced. Even though getting a divorce was something I had never thought about before, I was far from the only person who was going through one currently or had had that experience. I went from feeling isolated and alone to finding people who understood.
People cared about what I was going through—even strangers.
And sometimes more than those I knew or who I thought would have cared. The human experience is broad, but I do believe in the kindness of strangers today more than I ever did before. So many people online were eager to share their experiences, as well as the resources they found helpful, without expecting anything in return, not even a thank you. Of course, they received my gratitude, and I am forever indebted. Today, I pay it forward by listening and helping others whenever and however I can.
Sharing my grief was therapeutic.
One of the reasons why social media has become so prevalent in society today is because it gives us a platform to voice our thoughts and feelings. When we post, others hear us, and this, in a way, is reassuring. Our grief is real, and not something to be pushed aside because we have passed an arbitrary expiration date and time is up. We haven’t ceased to exist, even though, at times, it may seem that way, especially when our soon-to-be ex-spouse no longer appears to care about what is going on in our lives.
Helping others work through their grief was therapeutic, too.
The beauty of social media is it makes the world feel smaller and more unified. We can communicate with someone from almost anywhere across the globe at any time, day or night. When we converse with others online, we realize the human experience is surprisingly collective. We may have different backgrounds and cultures, but fundamentally, we share the same emotions and can empathize with each other, which helps us heal together.
Information came to me.
I believe we take the massive amounts of knowledge we can easily access for granted. If we have a question on our minds, all we have to do is enter it into a search engine, and endless answers and advice pop up. Having that capability during my divorce provided me with some much-needed security because whenever I worried (which was often) about parenting or what life would be like after divorce, or anything else for that matter, I could find sound advice fast as well as for free.
I admit I didn’t always know what to look for and still don’t. By using social media to follow specific people, groups, and pages, articles of interest come to me directly. Though I enjoy seeing what my friends and family are up to, what they are eating for dinner, and where they are vacationing on any given day, what I like even more is learning. Social media allows me to do that, even while I wait on line at Trader Joe’s.
I had a place to express myself.
Everyone needs to be creative. Social media platforms serve as forums for us to show our creativity and share it with others. Whether we have created a masterpiece in the kitchen, on a canvas, using words, or wherever our mind and heart has taken us, we have a gift to share, if we so choose. When other people online appreciate those gifts, whether by liking, commenting, and following, we can see the impact we are having and who we have touched. When I was going through my divorce, by far the most turbulent transition of my life, social media provided the comfort I craved to regain the confidence I had lost. And then some.