Divorce Selfies

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The “selfie” has become ubiquitous part of pop culture. It has become so pervasive that it has spawned a category of accessories (the selfie-stick) and sub-genres including “the gym selfie”, “the car selfie”, and now  “divorce selfies”.  There has been speculation that the rise of the selfie is a by-product of shifting values and cultural shift towards individualism. The emergence of the “divorce selfie” may also be a reflection of shifting perceptions of divorce.

The history of divorce stretches back to the 16th century and the Roman Catholic church. In the 1950s divorce carried a strong stigma. Couples who chose to divorce were often faced with ridicule and disdain. The societal pressures to avoid divorce were just a part of the challenges faced when deciding to terminate a marriage. In the 50s, divorces were only granted if one party could prove fault. This meant that adequate cause for divorce had to be presented before a judge. If neither party could show fault, the divorce would be denied. States such as New York, would only grant a divorce if adultery could be proven.  

The requirement to prove fault existed until 1969 when then California Governor, Ronald Reagan, signed the first no-fault divorce bill. Governor Reagan’s bill has been cited as paving the way for other states to also adopt no-fault divorces. According to an article published by HG.org, “One of the principal outcomes of the no-fault divorce is that today, if one spouse wants a divorce but the other spouse does not, there isn’t much the resistant spouse can do to prevent it. Years ago when “fault” divorce was commonplace, some divorces were simply not approved by the court because the other spouse offered a valid defense to the accusation of fault.”

The implementation of no-fault divorces played a significant role in shaping the idea of the family structure well into the 80’s and 90’s. The archetype of the latchkey kid made it’s appearance as a societal norm via the mass media in the 80’s and continues to be a recurring character. The latchkey kid was a byproduct of the rise in divorce rates that occurred in the 1970s, peaked in the 80’s and perpetuated through the 90s. The concept of divorce evolved significantly over these three decades; it moved from stigmatized to a more socially accepted status.

Changing social perceptions regarding divorce have been accelerated by the widespread adoption of technology and social media. Both technology and social media have impacted divorce cases and it is no surprise that they are also being used to celebrate a divorce becoming final.

The emergence of platforms like Friendster and Myspace, gave rise to social media as a tool for image crafting. This has been magnified with the widespread adoption of other, more sophisticated, channels such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Social media is often the first place people turn when major life events happen so it comes as no surprise that some couples mark the end of their divorce with a selfie.

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