Posted on June 19, 2012 · Posted in Social Media

Till a few years back, it has been common to see how family members would completely cut off relations with each other on the basis of certain grievances. The resulting social boycott of each other used to lift only after the members had sorted out their issues, making peace with each other. Today, however, in this modernized and high tech world that we live in, these family estrangements have become more painful when updates about their important life events are revealed through social networking sites. It causes extreme distress when significant pieces of news, for instance the birth of a grandchild, are not shared directly by one’s loved ones- one’s own blood-relations! Furthermore, the constant insight into their lives keeps on reinforcing the pain caused by the lost ties.

A psychologist in Bay Area, Joshua Coleman talks about how social networking sites make the issue of family estrangement worse, in his book called, “When Parents Hurt.” In the book, he talks about how he gets cases where people complain that, ‘I heard from somebody else who read it on Facebook that my son just got married,’ or, ‘my daughter just had a child, and I didn’t even know she was pregnant.’ He adds that these are the kinds of events that we eagerly wait for, always assuming we would be present when the anticipated event takes place. According to him, “there are things that parents assume all their lives they’d be there for, then they hear in a very public third-hand way about it, and it adds a layer of hurt and humiliation.”

It is difficult to be precise about the statistics of family estrangement events that occur throughout the nation. It cannot, therefore, be stated with certainty whether the occurrences of such events are gaining momentum day in and day out. However, such rifts among family members do result in problems such as depression, various types of addiction, and marital problems. In severe cases, it might even become the cause of suicide.

The director, Vera Shelby, of a family support group established in Colorado as well as Texas known as, “Healing Estranged Relationships,” suggests that estrangement causes various levels of pain to people. She says, “This is almost worse than death, because when they are estranged from you, they aren’t gone.” She herself relates to the situation deeply as her own daughter has been out of touch with her for the past four years.

Another resident of Florida, Mary, went through two periods of estrangement with her daughter, one of which lasted for over ten months and is currently continuing. According to the mother, the first period started some time in 1997 and ended in 2005. However, it started again some time back and has not been resolved yet. She also came forward to reveal that the rift that occurred for the first time was about a petty issue when she did not approve of her daughter’s boyfriend. She added, saying, “it was easier because there were no reminders.”

The daughter ended up marrying her boyfriend and now has her own family, but still refuses to contact her mother after ten months of estrangement. The only glimpse Mary gets of her daughter’s life is through Facebook now, when one thing or the other regarding her daughter appears on her newsfeed. The mother also stated, how it saddened her when, “you’re watching other people enjoying your daughter and the grandchild you’re supposed to have, and you’re left out in the cold. I have to watch pictures of my grandson — that I didn’t get — on my daughter’s sister-in-law’s page.”

It may also prove to be a problem when the security provided by these social networking websites disables the parents from viewing their children’s or relative’s profiles due to privacy settings.