Why you should care
Because it’s the Wild West of Internet relations, and we gotta figure out how to navigate it.
It seems like the Internet is all up in our love lives. Whether it’s online dating or just browsing in the swipe-right-swipe-left style, looking for love in the modern era is a friggin’ pixelated pursuit.
And it doesn’t get better once you’re actually in a relationship: Documentation is everywhere and even Facebook-PDA-averse couples find it hard not to update the state of their relationship in real time — anniversaries, half-anniversaries, romantic getaways, inside jokes.
A social media prenup might mean discussing what is off-limits or needs approval prior to posting.
But what happens when two people who have posted, tweeted, Vine-d and Instagram-ed every aspect of their coupledom bust up? It’s like a horror version of that Jim Carrey movie, where a guy and girl try to erase each from the other’s memories after the relationship goes south.
So what about applying a prenuptial to the online dating game?
We’ve seen the kind of digital warfare and ugliness that can erupt in the wake of a breakup — from the vicious (revenge porn or posting naked pics) to the humiliating (post-breakup, drunk Snapchats) to the merely awkward (that photo that got tagged way after the split).
It’s the Wild West in social media land, which is why some relationship experts suggest that you and your significant other set guidelines. And this prenup doesn’t require lawyers (or their fees).
According to Sheri Meyers, an L.A.-based marriage and family therapist, a social media prenup might mean discussing what is off-limits or needs approval prior to posting. Perhaps that would extend to photos (especially if they’re edgy or risque), comments about personal habits or gripes about one’s friends or family.
Not the usual conversation starter with a new honey, but Meyers says it’s worth it. She and her significant other, relationship coach Jonathon Aslay, have a social media prenup — granted, they’re not your typical couple, but they know plenty about navigating the murky and often treacherous waters of digital dating.
Boundaries are something couples have always had to discuss, but nowadays that conversation has become more pressing.
And referring to the agreement by its label can even ease the awkwardness. “It’s so much easier because he just goes, ‘This is a ‘SMP’ (social media prenup) moment,’” Meyers said. “So it’s 20 seconds of dialogue versus 20 minutes, because we’ve already had the discussion.”
Meyers — who appeared on Katie Couric’s talk show to talk about social media prenups and is writing a book on the subject — says they are “a way to get out of the ‘la-dee-da-dee-da’ (uncertainty) and get into consciousness.”
Looked at that way, a social media prenup doesn’t seem like such a new, new thing. Instead it’s just a revamp of what therapists and relationship gurus have been preaching to couples for millennia: privacy and boundaries. Robert Weiss, an expert in intimacy, sex and addiction in the digital age, says that boundaries are something couples have always had to discuss, but nowadays that conversation has become more pressing.
And what say the social media giants? Not much. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat failed to respond to requests for comments on the complexities of documenting relationships on their platforms or taking content down.
But there are some apps available that could bring Eternal Sunshine to life. Couple, “the app for two,” says it protects users post-breakup by limiting access to digital content if both parties don’t consent. Avocado allows former couples to peruse an archive of their private notes, but users can only delete their own account, not their ex’s, the company said.
At the end of the day — or your relationship — you can call it a social media prenup or just simple courtesy and respect. Either way, it might be time to say buh-bye to the ”la-dee-da-dee-da” and chat it out with your sweetie before things turn sour.
Vignesh Ramachandran is a tech buff and journalist working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @VigneshR.