Social media is all around us. In today’s world, around-the-clock accessibility through social media has become the norm. It seems as if everyone is constantly updating their status or tagging their pictures so that we know exactly where they are and what they are doing. Couples are realizing that updates on an individual’s whereabouts and thought on social media can affect their family.
Some couples create joint social media accounts and others maintain a separate online presence. Regardless of the structure of a couple’s social media accounts, having agreed upon guidelines and boundaries for posts are becoming increasingly common. The importance of social media “rules and regulations” are becoming so important for couples that prenuptial and postnuptial agreements often include some type of social media clause.
Regardless of the privacy settings being used, or the amount of posts either person makes to a social media account, the benefits of having a social media clause in your pre/post-nup are many. For example, if one party (or both parties) comes from a prominent or well-known family, protecting the reputation of the family name is often an important goal. Depending on the nature of the family’s individual situation, certain subject matter should be avoided when posting on social media sites. Some couples opt to keep their last names out of social media, or the wife will keep her social media under her maiden name rather than the maiden name. That may not be enough in some cases.
Another reputational concern may arise when one spouse is a business owner, high-level employee or partner. In order to maintain strong ties to a customer base or to a community, business owners like to ensure they are exhibiting the right image to the public. For example, a restaurateur may want to be very careful of posting negative comments towards other restaurants in the community, and this would extend to the restaurateur’s spouse. Certain posts or photographs may be seen as casting a negative inference against the business. The prenup or postnup may include a clause that limits the types of comments and photographs that may be posted on social media relating to a spouse or his or her line of business. Additionally, there are clauses that limit (or eliminate altogether) posting reviews of certain types of products or businesses. Using the restaurateur example, it may be important for the spouse to eliminate negative reviews on sites such as Yelp for competing neighborhood restaurants. Although the couple may dine in other establishments and truly have a negative experience, it may give the perception of bad business for one restaurant owner (or his/her spouse) to speak negatively on a public forum about a neighboring establishment. Other posts may interfere with privacy concerns.
The above examples offer common reasons for couples to want to include social media clauses in their pre/post nups. Other reasons could be as simple as wanting to retain control of any photos that are posted to the Internet! Married couples are, of course, together a lot and tend to have many photos together or of the other person. If one spouse is an avid social media user, it may be very important for the other spouse to limit or have approval of postings.
The following is a list of popular clauses related to social media that couples might choose to include in their pre/post nups:
- Tagging locations: This could include actual GPS tagging and/or tagging a business or city in a post.
- Topics that may be addressed on social media: Along the same lines as the examples related to protecting a family name or business, couples may want to eliminate political posts and/or posts related to specific family members, etc.
- Amount of social media applications: There are many options available for social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Although mainly used for business, LinkedIn is also considered to be a social media application. A clause may limit the amount of applications each person may have active at one time and/or what can be posted.
- Accepting friend/follower requests and requesting to follow/following others: Because privacy is often a big concern for couples, a popular clause may stipulate whom the parties may follow or “friend” on different social media applications. This clause may also state that accounts must be kept on a private setting, where followers must be authorized by the party.
- Pictures and posts related to current and/or future children: Parents often love sharing photos of their children while having a vested interest in the privacy of their family. A social media clause may define what types of photos may be shared on social media when it comes to the children and the nature of posts related to the children (i.e. referring to the children by their full names, posting only family pictures, limiting the number of posts, etc.)
- Pictures and posts related to other family members: There may be certain family members that a party would prefer to keep completely off of a social media page. This clause addresses who is “off limits” and what, if anything may be posted about family members.
- Access to one another’s accounts and/or the use of joint accounts: Many couples opt to create one joint social media page, utilizing both of the parties’ names as a first name, and the family name as the last name (i.e. John & Jane Smith). Alternatively, other couples choose to share social media passwords with one another for posting purposes (or other reasons). This clause stipulates agreements on password access, use of joint accounts and other related issues that may be unique to the couple or family.
The above list is not exhaustive and is meant to illustrate the range of possibilities available to couples wishing to address social media in their pre/post nups.
As is the case with prenups and postnups in general, social media clauses can be tailored specifically to fit a couple’s needs and concerns. Discussing those concerns can be a valuable tool in clarifying expectations and concerns and establishing a strong foundation for the marriage.