Home Community Insights The Social Reality of Online-in-Laws

The Social Reality of Online-in-Laws

The Social Reality of Online-in-Laws

There are many things in our world that are both easy and hard to define. The human innate ability to interpret anything, alive or nonliving, according to one’s own cultural background and personal orientation, accounts for its simplicity. The challenge is in clinging to one’s beliefs without an open mind to consider other people’s points of view. Consequently, the consensus among academics and experts in the area of sociology has been that social contact shapes people’s experiences, resulting in realities that are socially produced.

Over time, two key ideas that have been employed to comprehend and regulate diverse social realities within man-woman relationship have been marriage and divorce. Marriage is an institution that bonds partners through life’s ups and downs. It is human nature to desire to live in pairs and establish bonds with one’s family and relatives. Divorce is a concept that refers to the termination of a marriage. Infidelity, financial troubles, loss of intimacy, substance addiction, domestic abuse, a lack of commitment, moral or religious differences, and just growing apart have all been highlighted as significant contributors to the global divorce rate

While filing for divorce is not a bad idea, what is really surprising nowadays is the speed at which couples are dragging their marital challenges to the digital sphere, especially social media such as Facebook, Tiktok, X among others. In recent years, social media has been flooded with stories of celebrities and non-celebrities who dissolved their marriages and considered it appropriate to report to ‘online-in-laws’. Direct and indirect followers are now brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, mothers-in-law daughters-in-law and fathers-in-law to many couples. 

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Social media, which could be said to have been primarily created for expanding friends beyond physical settings and staying in touch with loved ones, has now been transformed into a family arena in which couples directly or indirectly regard their followers and users as ‘in-laws’ and marriage counsellors. 

Numerous high-profile celebrity weddings in Nigeria and throughout the world have, for no apparent reason, been mocked or brought before the social media court, according to one of the country’s major newspapers. Our analyst believes that this indicates that couples are seriously harming their reputations and may be contributing to the eventual destruction of their children’s personalities. It is instructive to state that non-celebrity couples who approached and were featured on programmes on conventional media outlets have equally attracted a significant amount of public attention, despite the fact that several studies, like the one done in a Global North country, note that celebrity divorces have attracted the most attention online in the past ten years. 

Because they might impact marriages in two different ways, in-laws play a vital role in spouses’ social networks. First of all, it is not a natural fit for spouses to create familial ties with non-blood relatives. Second, for spouses who have strong emotional and psychological attachments to one another, in-laws can breed animosity and tension.

However, the rise of social media and couples’ desire to communicate their problems on these platforms is redefining the first method and establishing it as the new normal in family dispute resolution. Our analyst observes that, while some ‘online-in-laws’ may offer reasonable comments or ideas on how to manage difficulties in marriages, many of them, particularly those who have never married, are more inclined to give counsel based on feelings rather than experiences. This is the fact that couples who have taken their marital problems to digital platforms must deal with since couples function in a social environment and are vulnerable to the effects and demands of their social networks.

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