I’m Jo O’Sullivan of O’Sullivan Family Law. I am usually to be found in the offices of Morgan Kelly Solicitors in Lewes on a Wednesday.
As a very busy Collaborative Family Lawyer and Mediator I love my work but every few months I need to make sure I take just a few days off. When you are working alongside couples that are separating, though hugely rewarding, it can be emotionally draining. I need to be in a good place myself so that I can give my clients all the support and guidance they need throughout the process. The Collaborative process is built on being supportive, respectful and fair… so if your lawyer is stressed out and tired you aren’t going to get the best out of them.
Over the early May bank holiday weekend I went away for a few days on a silent retreat. It was a given that I would leave my smartphone behind. Day-to-day I rely heavily on technology to run my practice. I communicate with clients and regularly text, email and talk to them using my smartphone.
So going cold turkey was hard. You may laugh at me as it was only for three days, but it showed me that it’s hard to let go. When you’re on your phone many times a day it’s a rather surreal experience. The first day, I felt slightly anxious. I was seeing my phone where it wasn’t. I was expecting it to be near by or in my bag and it wasn’t there.
But then after a while I began calming down. I realised I was starting to do more self-reflection, meditation and experiencing greater introspection, which is one of the things we’ve possibly lost day-to-day.
I got to thinking about how social media and an over-reliance on phones will have affected many of my clients and the quality of their relationship. Introspection can make people feel more secure and confident because they get to experience how they really feel about themselves and their situation.
Increasingly I am seeing that the over use of social networks and digital communication can contribute to the break up of a couples’ relationship. Moreover, there can be unforeseen consequences in divorce settlement negotiations, as well.
Social media and smartphone applications have become an important part of how we interact. They can be fun and useful, and have become second nature to most of us. When something happens to us in our personal life, we post about it to let friends know. When something happens in our working life, we update our profiles to improve professional networking. Every day we are sharing personal and professional information, the highs and the lows, and of course photos.
When a couple is going through a separation or divorce social media can become a bit of a minefield. Not every Facebook “friend” is a true friend. Not every professional connection is an ally. Often a message you thought was private is anything but.
I advise my clients to think seriously about how they continue to engage with social media throughout their separation and beyond.
Couples will have chosen the Collaborative process because it is built on mutual respect and avoiding unnecessary hurt. Photos of you out enjoying yourself can cause hurt and anger.
I am not advising clients to go completely offline or cut ties with friends who they regularly communicate with – their support can be invaluable when going through a separation. However it is vital to always remember that it is all too instant to post a message or a photo in anger or hurt so always think twice before hitting that send button!