Q: I broke up with my ex about three months ago and he still has pictures of us on Facebook. I just started dating someone else and it seems inappropriate to see pictures of me with my ex all over the Internet. It feels like harassment. Will a restraining order help? Is there some sort of ex-etiquette associated with social media?
A: It sounds as if you are looking for a rule, like the 10 rules of good ex-etiquette (which can be found at www.bonusfamilies.com, key word: ten rules) that depicts the proper behavior associated with breakups and social media. For example, “60 days after a breakup it’s good manners to remove all evidence of the relationship off social media.” That would be nice, but it’s doubtful people all would follow the rule. Everyone moves at their own pace, and there may be extenuating circumstances associated with the breakup. For example, a partner has died and the picture is an important memory, or the couple has children together and the pictures posted include the children. Or, your ex may not have wanted the breakup and finds it comforting to view the pictures of the two of you together. I understand the latter is irritating, but certainly not against the law.
As a disclaimer, I’m not an attorney or a judge, but I have seen your request come across judges’ desks on quite a few occasions. My impression is that what you describe is far from harassment. He’s not threatening you, and three months ago the pictures were just fine, so there’s not much you can do short of simply asking him to remove them.
If he declines, however, that’s just the way it will have to be. Old pictures of the two of you posted on Facebook are not grounds for a restraining order. “Unfriend” or block him and you won’t have to see his posts. Since it’s doubtful he’s posting new pictures of you, that means you’re checking his page to see if the pictures are still posted. Stop it and move on.
It’s important to note, however, that Facebook posts that threaten or badmouth or depict questionable behavior are admissible evidence in divorce or custody hearings. If you have a grievance with an ex, the last place to air that dirty laundry is on a social media website.
And, if you have kids who are your “friends” or even parents of your kids’ who are your “friends” who may pass on what you posted to your children, consider the harm you do when you badmouth your children’s mother or father in a public forum. You look no better than they when you openly air your dirty laundry. Or, let’s say there’s a drug and alcohol restriction in your custody agreement and someone posts a picture of you drinking – all that may be enough to put a serious kink in how much time the kids spend with dad or mom. Just very bad ex-etiquette all around.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.