This Meme Will (Not) Save Your Marriage

This meme comes to us from Victorious Marriages, a Facebook-based movement led by a Christian minister. They’ve got lots of helpful advice to make your (deeply patriarchal) marriage a success. It’s a lot of obvious stuff like: communication is key, honesty is imperative, and don’t let one fight destroy your marriage (do a lot of people throw in the towel after one argument? Who are these people? How many marriages are they churning through in a lifetime? Can you give them my card? Or, better yet, share my Facebook page with them?). I guess if you follow their tips and give it up to the Lord, you’re bound to have a victorious marriage. That’s all well and good and I’m not here to judge anyone’s religious beliefs or explain equality to you, but I am going to go ham on that social media meme they posted.

This is where we are, huh? We need to preemptively warn others our marriages are sacred, so don’t go winky smiley face-ing at us because our will powers are too weak for that saucy catnip. Predators are just all over the internet waiting to destroy your relationship through flirty DMs. How weak are these marriages that a “haha” comment on a status update from Paul in your Zumba class can snowball into a full blown affair? Who are these home wreckers reclining on divans in silk robes, smoking a cigarette on a long cigarette holder, scrolling through Facebook for their next victim? Call me crazy but posting this meme isn’t telling the world your marriage is strong. Instead it shouts out, "hey my marriage is such a disaster that any outside influence can be insidious". It also reeks of paranoia and mistrust of the whole world. Could a meme like this actually strengthen a marriage? Let’s take a look at a few couples.

The Newlyweds. Ron and Susan just exchanged their vows in front of a hundred and twenty-five loved ones and danced the night away to such hits as “We Are Family” and “Hotline Bling.” The cake tasted weird, as wedding cakes are contractually obligated to taste weird, no matter the flavor, no matter the baker. The blissful yet exhausted couple makes their way to their honeymoon suite, both riding the line between ok drunk and sloppy drunk. Susan spends twenty minutes freeing herself from the intricate lever and pulley system keeping her dress up. She sighs with relief as she cuts herself out of sixteen layers of Spanx. Ron rubs his sore feet, blistered from the fancy yet inflexible shoes Susan insisted he wear. He playfully puts his cumberbundt around his head, Rambo Style, for the eighth time and it is still the funniest thing he has ever done. Susan’s and Ron’s eyes meet across the dimly lit hotel room. Ron asks, “You ready?” With intensity in her eyes, Susan replies, “You bet I am.” They whip out their phones and upload the Victorious Marriages social media meme to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Of course, they do it one by one so the other can Snapchat the process. They pop the complimentary bottle of champagne the hotel left for them and toast each other. Here’s to a victorious marriage: NOTHING can stop us now!

5 Years Married. Jenna spends most of her time on Twitter @-ing customer service with complaints and live tweeting The Bachelor. She has 26 followers including her husband Mike. Mike only tweets during March Madness, but retweets all of President Obama’s posts. That is, until this past May. He synched his running tracker to his Twitter and every time he runs, the world knows, and Jenna faves every running tweet. Last week she noticed there was already a fave for his 2.1 mile run around the reservoir. That’s weird Jenna thought. So she clicked. Who’s xxxHotxxGirlxx1997xxx? And why the heck is she fave-ing Mike’s tweets? You and I know xxxHotxxGirlxx1997xxx is a bot. Sure I like to imagine she’s a middle aged woman in Lithuania looking to catfish Mike and blackmail him into serious debt, but life isn’t that exciting. Jenna helped Mike sign up for Twitter in 2011, and she happens to know Mike’s password. Jenna has some self-esteem and abandonment issues that she’s working on in therapy, but she’s not far enough along to stop herself from DM-ing xxxHotxxGirlxx1997xxx the handy Victorious Marriages meme her mom sent her after going to church retreat. She then changes Mike’s password, locking him out of his own account. Mike mentions it a week later. Jenna says, "Oh that’s odd." Mike is too lazy to look into it. He’s also too lazy to sign up for a new Twitter account. Yahtzee! A victorious marriage!

10 Years Married. Steve and Allie got the cutest Goldendoodle the world ever did see. They named him Biscuit. One day Allie’s friend says Biscuit is so cute he could definitely be Instagram famous. Allie mulls this over and later that night opens up an Instagram account for Biscuit. Within a month Biscuit has two thousand followers. Not famous by Kardashian standards, but Biscuit lands himself a BarkBox sponsorship and that’s nothing to scoff at. Allie is featured in his pictures every so often. She usually doling out a treat or giving a belly rub. TuckerLovesGolf84 is a long time follower and a frequent liker. He usually throws out a “So cute!” comment every other picture or so. But on the posts featuring Allie he goes a bit further. Usually it’s something like “So cute! And so is his mom! ;)” Steve’s eyes narrow at these comments. He gets it. Allie’s beautiful and smart and funny and that’s why he married her. He’s not threatened by TuckerLovesGolf84. He trusts Allie. He doesn’t want to be the type of person who is worried about comments on his dog’s novelty Instagram account, but this whole thing just sticks in his craw. He comes across the Victorious Marriages Facebook page one night during his casual evening scrolling. He shows Allie. Allie thinks it’s really funny. Steve “jokingly” suggests they post it on Biscuit’s Instagram account. Allie is confused. Steve explains he’s kidding, ha ha total joke, ha ha... Allie goes back to her book. Steve has low level, constant anxiety for the rest of Biscuit’s life. He is heartbroken when Biscuit dies six years later, but also, secretly relieved. They close Biscuit’s Instagram account. Rot in hell, TuckerLovesGolf84. Another victorious marriage!

25 Years Married. Patrick and Ellen have been happily married for 25 years. Ellen is an avid reader and forms a book club with a group of her close friends. Their first pick is a steamy revenge story about a scorned woman. It is not good. The whole book club agrees and the conversation wanders as the pinot flows. Turns out the daughter of Christine, the main character, is seeing a married man she met of SlapChop. That’s the name of the phone thingy, right? Christine is pretty sure that’s what it’s called. Anyway, he’s got a wife and kids and he’s Christine’s age and it’s despicable but what can Christine do? Her daughter isn’t going to listen to her, so she just keeps her mouth shut and tries to stay out of it. A seed is planted in Ellen’s mind. What if Patrick is on the SlapChop and Ellen has no idea? What if he’s secretly seeing one of her friend’s daughters? Why has he been so quiet lately? Is it an affair, oh god, what if it’s an affair? Ellen and her wine drunk brain pull out her phone and go to Goggle.com. Wait that’s not right. Google. Right, google. She searches “save my marriage,” drops her phone, steps on it, falls down and is now bleeding from the head. While waiting to be seen at the emergency room, she keeps googling ways to save her marriage and finds herself on the Victorious Marriages Facebook page. Patrick rushes to Ellen’s bedside where she’s getting stitches and is being treated for a concussion. He’s so relieved she’s ok but she keeps babbling about marriage victory and begs him to put a picture on Facebook for her. He says of course whatever you want. He drops Ellen’s hand as the nurse comes in to check on Ellen. It’s Tracy. Patrick and Tracy been having an affair for two years. They met at the gym. They did not meet on SlapChop. Another victorious marriage!

40 Years Married. Max and Julia have been married for 40 years. They heard a report on the news about social media fueling infidelity. They don’t really get what social media is and are too tired to get divorced so they have dinner and continue to not know how to use Facebook. Another victorious marriage!


These examples are ridiculous because this meme is ridiculous. I guess my point is, while social media certainly plays a part in modern marriages crumbling, so does the rest of life. A wedding ring worn on the subway isn’t going to keep a creep or handsome Hollywood actor from talking to you, and neither is a meme on the internet. Stop worrying about old flames and strangers coming after your spouse, and instead maybe, I don’t know, talk to your spouse. Because memes aren’t going to prevent stuff from happening and moving to a nuclear fallout shelter with just your wife and 30 years worth of canned goods isn’t really a plausible option

 

Our Complicated Relationship With Social Media

While art directing my perfectly curated breakfast of avocado toast and an iced latte, complete with a blogworthy striped paper straw, I thought to myself daaamn this looks good, I’m going to get so many likes. But I also thought about a simpler time, when I ate without photographing it, when I could see the stage of a concert with my own eyes instead of through the 100 phones in front of me, and before I felt the need to micro-document every single thing I did to prove to my high school frenemies on Facebook that my life was way, way better than any of theirs. Just 10 years ago the world was very different.

With the advent of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (the holy trinity), and of course their handheld facilitator — the smart phone — our lives, our relationships and the way we interact has totally transformed. Though, with each technological triumph are we becoming a better society? A wise man named Neil Postman opined, “Technological change is always a Faustian bargain: technology giveth and technology taketh away, and not always in equal measure.  A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys.  Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates.”

So, which camp are we in? Are we better off now than we were 10 years ago? It’s hard to say. Sure we’re all zombies with stooped heads, growing hunchbacks, stuck in the technology loop Portlandia perfectly described:

But the world has also shrunk and we’re able to meet and bond with people all over the place. It’s now easier than ever to find and build our own tribes. Access to information, art and music has never been more democratic. And of course, how we fall in love today is different as well.

I just finished reading comedian Aziz Ansari’s new book Modern Romance, an interesting sociological study on dating in modern times, in all its glory and horror. He too grappled with the question of whether we’re better off now than we were pre-social media. In America Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid and their dozens of copycats bring people together with a few taps and swipes. But in Japan, marriage and birth rates are declining and the contemporary internet age seems to be isolating people from each other more than bringing them together. Ansari didn’t find a definitive answer to whether we’re better off, but in much of the world social media is instrumental in getting people together.

It’s so commonplace now, that more and more the answer to “So how did you two meet?” is simply “the internet.” It is so the norm that chatting someone up, human-to-human, is so weird it merits experiments like this:

Sometimes people find their soulmates online and sometimes aspiring writers turn horrible dates into great short stories. But let’s focus on the soulmate couple. They swiped their way to true love and are now married, but social media’s influence does not end there. Dating apps and sites are of course expediting the cheating process, busting up marriages left and right. Curious partners snoop their way into uncovering cheating spouses who reconnected with their high school sweethearts thanks to Facebook. Concerned fans tweet wives mariage-shattering photo discoveries. Then there are all those politicians sending crotch shots to strangers, mangling their careers and their marriages in one fell swoop.

Even once the marriage is a pile of smoking ashes, the impact of selfie sharing and status updates is not over. Shiny social media accounts can make a person the envy of all their friends but they can also get them into hot water. Custody, alimony, and all sorts of other details of a divorce can be tied to what is posted online.

It does not fare well for a custody argument when a person’s supposed to be with the kids but instead they’re tagged in Facebook pictures slamming shots in Vegas. Boasting about a new car and flashy lifestyle on Twitter does not bode well for the “I swear I’m broke. I need alimony, your Honor” stance. Even the innocuous can be detrimental. Kid not properly bucked in his carseat in that Instagram post? Does it matter that they weren’t moving and two seconds after the picture was taken the parent fixed the buckle? It certainly doesn’t to a spouse’s attorney when she argues that they’re an unfit parent who doesn’t care about a child’s safety.

So what’s a person to do? Well, use your brain. Basically, don’t be dumb. Maybe posting a link to Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money (NSFW!!!) video with a “Lol” isn’t the best status update to post on the morning of your court hearing. Set your privacy settings so that you can review pictures before you’re tagged in them. Think through each thing you want to post, and when you decide it’s fine, don’t post it, take a walk around the block and think it through once more. Honestly, if possible, the best idea is unplug. Take a break from all your accounts. Commune with nature. Meet up with your friends and talk to them in person. Read a newspaper instead of a newsfeed. Let us lawyers do our jobs while you enjoy the peace and quiet of a simpler life. And hope that your soon to be ex-spouse didn’t take any of this advice and all his or her internet mistakes will prove fruitful for you.

So, have we destroyed more than we created? Are we better off in this new frontier where we can Seamless tacos, swipe right to find a date, tweet the entire world our deepest and shallowest thoughts, text our grandmas happy birthday, and share the screenshots on Instagram — all without having to move an inch off our couches? Are we better communicators now? Is all this convenience giving us better, streamlined lives?

Well, the answer is simple. Just kidding! I have no idea. And I don’t have the free time to get a PhD in sociology and anthropology and the nine hundred other fields that all have to converge to get into even the same ballpark as the answer. I know this much to be true: Neil Postman was right. Social media giveth and taketh away. Social media brings us together and tears us apart. Social media can prove helpful and totally detrimental to divorce proceedings. This is the world we live in now, we must accept it. Now who wants tacos? We don’t have to talk to anyone at all to get them delivered to our door. Hang on, I’ll grab my phone.

Respectfully,
James Sexton