In news that is neither new nor shocking, celebrities have messy personal lives. If anything, many famous people can best serve as examples on how not to live a peaceful life. They’re usually terrible role models, and public success seems to all too often come right along with a messy and dysfunctional personal life.
While drama and heartache for the average person is painful, for celebrities that pain becomes public consumption as tabloid fodder and media gossip. This also means that instead of having a few hundred friends and acquaintances follow their social media, celebrities end up with millions of people looking in on their online lives, especially when something explosive like a breakup happens in real time, online.
Who Not to Imitate: Rob Kardashian
Rob Kardashian and Angela Renée White, who is more recognizable under her stage name Blac Chyna, have managed to perfectly demonstrate the absolute worst aspects of fame and social media with their recent breakup. Kardashian’s family has long been in the public eye, first during the O.J. Simpson murder trial, then with the release of a sex tape, and most enduringly with their still running reality TV show.
Rob has had a rocky relationship with his family’s fame, and has been off and on their show. Despite his apparent reluctance to consistently invite the world into his life, he decided that the end of his relationship with the mother of his child was the perfect time to get really public. Kardashian took to Instagram then Twitter to air all of the dirty laundry from their relationship, including sharing Chyna’s personal medical history and private salacious pictures of her.
After a short social media break, Kardashian is already back, although so far only to post a picture of his daughter, Dream. He’s facing a fine of $40,000 and months in jail if he’s convicted under California’s revenge porn laws, and it would have been better for him to stick to posting pictures of his daughter than trying to destroy his ex.
Who to Imitate: Jennifer Garner
Jennifer Garner provides a counterbalance in how she has handled the end of her marriage to Ben Affleck. Garner has had a long and successful career, first on TV and then in movies. Affleck transitioned from child star to movie star and producer, and the two even worked together on film projects. After three children and years of marriage, however, things soured when Affleck had problems with addiction and possibly an affair.
Despite the glee of tabloids over the last two and a half years, Garner has avoided Internet meltdowns and angry ranting. Instead of taking any of their marital problems public, they’ve both stayed largely silent. When Garner is photographed in public by the ever-present paparazzi, she’s doing things that are normal and mundane. Shopping, taking her children to church, leaving the gym. On a wild day, she goes out to eat with friends. Even when her husband is pictured with the woman he’s having an affair with, Garner has avoided making statements or putting him on blast.
Garner puts her kids first, and she and Affleck have continued to co-parent. They celebrate holidays together, and they attend church as a family. At a recent awards ceremony, Affleck was able to speak kindly of his soon-to-be ex-wife. Garner has also strongly objected to tabloids who have tried to turn her separation into a juicy piece of gossip, and reminded her fans that she is a normal person, with a family who are confused and hurt by untrue media accounts.
Despite the common temptation to speak poorly of a former partner, both Garner and Affleck still praise each other as both friends and as parents. It’s sad that despite counseling and years of trying to resolve their marital issues they were unable to overcome their problems, but their children will never have to deal with either parent rage-posting shaming material online. Garner hasn’t spilled Affleck’s secrets or discussed his wrongdoings, and that maturity will ultimately help her children. She still loves Affleck, and her behavior shows it.
This Doesn’t Mean Divorce Is Good
Marriage isn’t meant to be a temporary institution, and it’s tragic when families break apart. Cheating on a partner is one of the lowest things a person can do. The dissolution of a marriage should never be celebrated, and pretending that divorce is easy or good for people does a disservice to society. It’s absolutely inexcusable when parents selfishly put their own wants ahead of what is best for their children and society. That’s true in marriage. It’s true in how they treat each other outside of marriage, as well.
Don’t take your anger and betrayal, no matter how justified, and aim it at your children, or let them be collateral damage. Don’t spread hate and hurtful words in places that your children can hear or see. That includes the Internet—all of the Internet, especially social media.
Celebrity and fame are certainly exacerbating the spread of Kardashian’s failure to handle the breakup of his relationship. That same celebrity could just have easily given Garner ample opportunity to trash Affleck, and she hasn’t. Those different ways of dealing with the end of a relationship hold lessons for all of us. Those lessons are ones that people in happy and secure marriages should consider, as well.
Let’s treat both of these ways of dealing with separation as a cautionary tale. Let’s have them serve as a reminder that it’s unwise to put marital disagreements online, even small ones. Inviting others into the worst parts of a relationship is no way to fix anything, and instead can worsen an already shaky situation. On the other side, refusing to talk poorly about your spouse, even if he or she might deserve it, preserves as much dignity and peace as possible for everyone involved, including the children.
It’s time for people to stop treating social media as a sounding board for every part of their lives. Take the time and effort you spend on cultivating a vibrant online presence and instead give that attention and effort to the real relationships in your life. Your family, your spouse, and your children will thank you for it.