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Should we celebrate or mourn the 'divorce selfie'?

Girl taking a selfie at the rooftop with view at city of Belgrade
Girl taking a selfie at the rooftop with view at city of Belgrade
, creativefamily - Fotolia

In a society saturated with taking pictures of oneself to mark moments big and small, it's probably no surprise that the "divorce selfie" has become a viral hit.

It's not entirely new, according to Huffington Post, which wrote about it a year and a half ago. It featured Florida couple (un-couple?) Keith Hinson and Michelle Knight, who said they decided to a do a divorce selfie showing smiling faces to let their families know that things were OK. "Ultimately, it set the tone for family and friends who might find interacting with the newly divorced couple awkward. The selfie speaks for itself: there's no bitterness here, just love," wrote Huffington associate editor Brittany Wong.

"Michelle and I have a good sense of humor about this," Hinson told Wong by email. "And we also wanted to let people know that this didn't have to be a negative experience. We are choosing to move forward with love. We've been separated a year, and throughout that time, we've both been committed to preserving our friendship."

Buzzfeed in September posted a sampling of divorce selfies. Most of them have captions that emphasize a theme of mutual caring and good relationships. "We still make a great team. Glad to be friends," says one, while another smiling duo selfie is captioned "Welcome to co-parenting! Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened. #divorceselfie."

Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey wrote about it on the news site's Intersect blog, calling it a "re-imagined" divorce. "Neither a tragedy nor a failure nor a source of shame, in their minds, but a natural, amicable point of transition. In the process, of course, they’re reimagining what marriage is, as well: a partnership that, counter decades of Western thought, is not necessarily all-important, all-fulfilling or immutable." She quoted, parenthetically, sociologist Jenny van Hooff, of Manchester Metropolitan University, who said that "perhaps the default for all of us should be 'it's complicated.'"

A broad body of research shows that, absent some form of domestic violence or serious substance abuse on the part of a parent, kids fare better in two-parent households headed by the natural parents. In any case, children thrive best with lots of access to and love from both parents. A recent look at shared parenting after divorce by the Deseret News found that it might reduce conflict between father and mother, if they don't exhibit behaviors of an unfit parent.

"A large body of research shows kids who have strong relationships with both parents, including after divorce, are happier, do better in school, are less likely to be bullied, and are less apt to engage in delinquent acts. Teen pregnancy is also reduced."

Still, not everyone's convinced that a divorce is something to commemorate with a cheery photo. "As a society, we seem to believe we have outfoxed the social ills of the past. Every decision taken in self-interest is celebrated. 'Be true to yourself!' is the mantra of Millennials on relationships, jobs, and everything in between," writes Bethany Mandel on Acculturated.com.

"But for parents, it’s not that easy — or it shouldn’t be, at least," she continues. "On divorce, we haven’t quite figured out how to uncouple in a way that is painless for all involved, nor will we ever. A divorce is the death of a family and should be treated as such. Divorce selfies are no less ridiculous than funeral selfies."

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco