My wife and I are connected on Instagram, Pinterest, GetGlue and Twitter. My wife and I work out together, watch movies together and go on dates. After receiving “hate email” a few days ago, over the Facebook article I wrote here almost three years ago. I decided it was time to write a follow-up to what oddly enough, has become the single most popular thing I’ve ever written. Guess I gotta thank Facebook for this. I appreciate those of you who actually read the original article in full, from start to finish. Whether you agreed or disagreed, thank you for not jumping to conclusions about me or being emboldened by the Internet to attack me personally.
Privacy. What Privacy?
So the person who sent me the hate email accused me of wanting to sneak around on Facebook. To sneak around would suggest there is some level of privacy online. There is not. As someone who makes a living in social media, I know first-hand there is no such thing. Working as a social media analyst for a major corporation I utilized software that allowed me to access Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube accounts all over the globe. This tool isn’t able to access anyone’s personal information, but it can “hear” everything that is being said online. In other words once you put something on the Internet, it’s on the Internet. Short of private messages (maybe) or unless you are a tech-savvy hacker there is no sure-fire way to sneak around. The second you log on you leave “footprints” — cookies, IP addresses, data — everywhere. More and more Facebook is being used to capture criminals. Employers are monitoring employees’ personal activities, and savvy divorce attorneys will subpoena social media activity in a heartbeat as evidenced by every politician that has self-destructed before the world on the Internet. Companies spend fortunes collecting marketing data on you and I, data that we give away freely, thinking we’re just chatting online with friends. With privacy settings being more difficult to understand than Chinese take out menus in Chinese, think again if you believe you are operating in a secure environment. The best policy is to be wise and be smart with what you say and how you say it when communicating online.
Un-friending vs. Blocking
Where Facebook rises above all the other social media platforms out there is that it gives you the ability to truly Block someone. Unlike Twitter or any other place that allows you to block someone, but then not only can they still see you but they also know you blocked them, Facebook stands alone in its ability, to make you, and whomever you’re blocking disappear from each other as if you don’t exist. If you comment on the same threads and photos you simply don’t appear and Facebook doesn’t allow any 3rd party apps to “tell on you”, alerting people you’ve blocked that you’re on their not so nice list. If you get a link via email stating that you can, delete it because it’s spam and it’s a virus. Blocking is an excellent option to combat bullies, stalkers or people you never want to find you on Facebook (you can even block people who haven’t yet friended you). And herein lies my point. I DID NOT BLOCK my wife, nor did I change my status from “Married” to something ridiculous like, “It’s complicated.” I un-friended her. Anyone who blocks or changes their marital status, is truly trying to hide something or hates the person they live with. Most of the negative comments and most recently, hate email, I’ve received come from people who want to believe I blocked my wife. And that simply ain’t cool.
Shared Friends – Shared Eyes
Because my wife and I share a huge number of mutual friends, including relatives and in-laws we can see each others photos and comments, we can also comment with each other when mutual friends are involved. We also watch each other uploading all this stuff while sitting together on the couch in the living room and go over our teenage son’s Facebook page to make sure nothing crazy is going on there. How do you sneak around when you have the same friends and when those friends are checking in on you as well? Or you have a vocal sister-in-law who is quick to call-out any activity that looks suspect? Well, you might not have a vocal sister-in-law, but I do.
That article was never about trust. The subject was never mentioned in the article. But commenters immediately went on the attack of me and each other over the subject of trusting spouses on Facebook. Trust was what ignited my decision to un-friend my wife. But not mistrust, complete trust. My computer is always on and so was my Facebook account, which she accessed, repeatedly, when my back was turned, or I was asleep. I’d awake to statuses (stati?) that made me sound half, and sometimes completely crazy. She’s a natural comedian, so the first couple of times it was funny. But eventually it became an issue the more I asked that she respect my “space”, and the more she kept on having fun at my expense. Despite warnings from friends on FB to lock my account, I refused because I didn’t need to take such drastic measures in my own home against my wife. But coupled with a series of communications errors we had as a young married couple of only two years at the time, Facebook simply got in the way. Every marriage has it’s issues. I hope as you read this you don’t believe mine were worse than yours. They’re all growing pains that lead to long term love and happiness. So I did what any leader does from time to time; I made an extremely unpopular decision that I felt was for our greater good. In the short run, we talked about everything, laughed about everything, especially that article. And in the long run, we were better off because of it because it stopped the trend of us communicating with each other face to face on the computer.
3 Years Later
It is now almost three years since I wrote, My Wife IS NOT My Friend (on Facebook), while sitting on my living room couch while watching television. It’s been almost three years since I casually emailed the article to Lamar Tyler with the simple message, “Here you go.” It’s been almost 3 years since that fateful next day when he called me at noon to tell me the article had been viewed 1,000 times. If the article were published today, I’m sure that number would probably have been 100,000 based on how many people are online and use Facebook. Three years ago I had only been married for two, and despite all the years we had been together prior we were definitely going through our terrible twos. I can honestly look back and say, social media, Facebook specifically, was a distraction, not the destruction, in our lives. We were arguing about a lot that did matter. I didn’t believe we needed to add Facebook to the mix. I can clearly remember being called out of meetings at work thinking something was wrong with one of my kids only to be angrily told I needed to delete a Facebook status. I’ve watched 50 year-old relatives hash out their infidelities and divorce proceedings on Facebook — living up in the same space and hating each other online and letting everyone know it. Facebook? Seriously?
Reality. Could I have handled my situation differently and better? I will answer this question with a most-certain, “yes.” I’ll scream “Yes!” to the hilltops. I learned a year or so later from the dynamic duo, The Marriage Coaches, that short of infidelity and/or abuse, when things are beginning to go wrong in a marriage, rarely is only one spouse at fault or somehow more at fault than the other. Wrong is wrong. Period. And you want to steer as far away from wrong, together, in marriage. I didn’t write this to defend my actions in any way. Nor am I seeking approval from anyone I don’t know or isn’t helping to pay my bills. I am accountable to God, my family and the laws of the land. But after the hate email I recently got I felt compelled, now three years wiser, to share that Mark Zuckerberg’s life’s work should not under any circumstances be the balance upon which trust in a marriage is measured. Nowhere can I find Facebook in the Bible or the Qua-ran and I’m pretty sure they don’t read it’s Terms and Conditions at the Justice of the Peace down at City Hall. Kids can’t even spell anymore because they write and think in nonsensical, auto-corrected, abbreviated statements that fit perfectly into status boxes but don’t make sense anywhere else. Here’s the bottom line: Live life In Real Life. Yes, it’s nice to connect with friends hundreds of miles away or people with whom you lost touch with generations ago, but if your spouse is right in front of you, talk to them, laugh with them, reach out and hold them, love them and don’t let anything get in the way of that. Agree, or agree to disagree and move on — together.