When combined with divorce, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter don't simply give us anecdotes about the seemingly least human ways to communicate intimate information. They also give attorneys a treasure trove of information that could affect the outcome of divorce proceedings.
Stories like the supposed first "Facebook divorce," don't really show us anything new. In that one, a woman in the UK first found out her husband intended to divorce her by reading his Facebook wall.
Social media tools simply add to the long line of communication tools used to deliver the marital knock-out. No doubt there was a first divorce by letter, a first telegraph divorce, a first telephone divorce, and a first email divorce. (Though the public nature of letting someone know on a social networking site is admittedly weird.)
However -- throw an angrily divorcing couple and some social media together, and you can get a spicy stew of information that can be used by divorce attorneys to affect decisions about custody and/or assets.
Basically, social media tools let people put much more of their life where others can see it. Just as people fire off emails with less thought than when they send a letter, tweets or Facebook posts might not seem too serious to the person sending them. Emails can be obtained in divorce proceedings. This applies to tweets, Facebook updates and information pumped through any other social networking tool.
If the divorce involves allegations of adultery, for example, more access to more personal information is golden. And don't think that deleting them will do much good -- copies exist somewhere, and the forensic experts in many contentious divorces will likely find them.
Another downside to constantly tweeting what you are doing or updating your Facebook status ad nauseum? The tweets can give a pretty good timeline of a person's activities, location and mood. This can be used to contradict anything they might later say during the divorce. As discussed in Time, testimony in custody disputes about habits like drinking and smoking can be shown false by forgotten photos on Facebook.
And that's not even considering all the tweets the person is following or whom they have friended on Facebook (perhaps including "persons of interest" in the divorce).
Finally, many divorce decrees mandate that the ex-spouses not disparage each other to their kids. Would a Facebook rant about dealing with an ex violate such an order? Maybe so.
Particularly if facing a contentious divorce, it's best to back away and take your finger off the twitter.