03/06/2012 12:53 BST | Updated 03/08/2012 06:12 BST

The Role of Facebook in Divorce

News of falling shares in Facebook has hit the headlines this week. I wonder how many people's spirits have fallen reading Facebook for a different reason. Perhaps because they have seen something there that is both shocking and betraying.

It is easy now in a way that it never was before, to find out about a partners' infidelity through social media. Unfortunately, it is not just the revelation that is so accessible, but much more. By reading Facebook or Twitter, people find out the length of time of the infidelity, the depth of feeling between the partner and their affair, the language of love or sex that they use and just how serious or meaningful the relationship is. Not only that, but there is the callousness of a partner's lack of care, or empathy for the person he or she betrays.

For many, finding something on Facebook is the first clue that they might have had that all was not well in the relationship. Others may be on the receiving end of a discovery that either comes completely out of the blue or confirms earlier suspicions. It is an exposure made more painful by the fact it is relatively 'public.'

Due to its nature, a Facebook revelation enables you to investigate a massive back catalogue of this person's life. Depending on how you came upon the affair (maybe an unattended computer giving you access to all, or perhaps seeing just one message) and how their account is set up, you may be able to read all previous messages between them and your partner, see photos, see who their friends are, their interests and comments they make to others. The chances are you will even know someone who knows him or her.

It isn't just affairs with current partners that can cause great pain. You may have had suspicions over a partners relationship with someone else, to then find that after breaking up, they are with that person very soon after. It seems that when an ex 'falls in love' or starts a new relationship, that he or she is so consumed by the newness of it or the thrill of it, that any feeling of protection for the person who still believes that they are in a couple, is completely lost.

Seeing either your ex's or your current partner's new fling on Facebook shows you the face of that person, the smile, the body language, and where they holidayed. You can stare at a person rather than imagining them. You can read things into the way he or she looks, laughs, stands. It is a massive exercise in masochism and self-torture made all the more easy by the relatively little effort it takes to find it all out. For those, looking for even more evidence, it doesn't take much to build a time line of when the relationship started to match suspicions. It is the equivalent of finding your partner in bed with someone, but instead of a one off shock, surfing Facebook and re-living the pain can take hours of looking and discovering.

Social media hasn't made divorce easier, but it has made separation more painful. It used to be that you found out in stages, giving a modicum of time to get used to something. People who had suspicions would live with them and then go through a bank statement or listen in on a phone call (remember, we used to all have land lines?) to find out what was going on. This has now been replaced by spy ware and cyber detectives. People could find out gradually, understand something slowly and come to a slow dawning about what was going on. Now the revelation hits you like never before, it is brutal.

In a world where our whole lives are on display via social media, we can live our lives on the outside, leaving very little for inside. What is left, to go on behind closed doors framed by discretion, integrity and mutual respect seems to be very little. My advice to anyone embarking on a cyber-investigation that goes beyond confirming a suspicion of infidelity is, don't do it. The revelation itself will be quite enough to deal with over the coming months. There is no need to beat oneself up with any more detail than that.