Jenice Armstrong: Facebook's playing a role in martial woes

Eva Longoria and Tony Parker in happier times.
Eva Longoria and Tony Parker in happier times.
Posted: November 18, 2010

A NEW JERSEY pastor's new

rule for married leaders in his church is simple: Thou shalt not Facebook.

The Rev. Cedric Miller has seen the havoc wreaked on relationships by the social-networking site, and he wants all of the married members of his flock to log off for good.

Instead of ordering all married church members to sign off, he plans to "strongly suggest" that they take down their Facebook profiles.

He'll be even tougher on those who hold leadership positions. If they're married, they have to quit Facebook or resign.

It sounds antiquated and counterintuitive since a cheater will stray no matter how inconvenient it is, but Miller has tapped into a cultural zeitgeist. About one in five adults uses Facebook for flirting, according to a 2008 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Just yesterday, actress Eva Longoria announced plans to divorce her pro-basketball-player husband, Tony Parker, after discovering that her hubby has been communicating via Facebook with the wife of one of his teammates. Longoria also told E!'s Mario Lopez that she found numerous text messages from a woman on Parker's phone.

The couple has been married only since 2007, and according to Longoria had hit an extramarital stumbling block earlier in their marriage. Clearly, Facebook didn't cause the couple's marital problem, but the site may have made it easier to facilitate.

"Most of the time, a lot of people get on Facebook quite innocently. You are not looking for anybody. It doesn't mean that someone won't find you," said Miller, whose church is the Living Word Christian Fellowship, near Asbury Park.

"If it's an ex, the person you are with is not going to see anything innocent about it. Sooner or later, the conversation changes . . . and [it's] the other person that sees it. It is going to take you six months to convince that person that there wasn't an encounter. The trust is destroyed and that takes years to rebuild."

Miller, who plans to take down his own Facebook profile this weekend, developed his anti-friending bias after noticing how many of the couples coming to him kept mentioning Facebook as being a factor in their relationship troubles. In the past six months, 20 couples in his congregation came to him and mentioned Facebook as an issue.

"At first, it was an isolated situation here or there," Miller told me yesterday. Then there was the time he had three straight counseling sessions that involved Facebook.

"After a while, I got to the point where before I started, I would say, 'Let me guess . . . ' You know what's coming. In every case, it's the same stuff. 'We are just old friends and we are catching up on old times.' The other person isn't trying to hear all that."

You don't have to be a super-user with 5,000 friends to know that Facebook is infamous for the role it can play in the undoing of relationships.

At the same time, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports that in the past five years, 81 percent of its members have used or been faced with evidence plucked from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social-networking sites during divorce suits.

Lynn Gold-Bikin, a Philly-based divorce lawyer, doesn't allow her clients to go on Facebook. And an online divorce site in the United Kingdom reported last year that the word "Facebook" pops up in about one in five of the petitions it was handling.

But you can't put the genie back into the bottle, as the saying goes. Logging onto social-networking sites such as Facebook is how we communicate today. And, apparently, how we cheat.

The Associated Press contributed to this

report.

Send e-mail to heyjen@phillynews.com. My blog: http://go.philly.com/heyjen.

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