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Getting by with a little help from your internet friends

To quote an old BT slogan: It’s good to talk. It’s especially good if you’re going through an emotional crisis, such as divorce or separation. Offloading your troubles on to sympathetic friends and relatives can help ease the pain and put things into some kind of perspective.

But men aren’t very good at doing this. Women are generally much better at confiding in other people. Men are more likely to button up their emotions and suffer in silence. They may be embarrassed to unburden themselves to family and peers in case it undermines their tough-guy image.

Yet everyone can benefit from a support network when life starts to unravel, and the internet may provide the most reticent of men with an emotional outlet.

As well as specialist websites offering factual information, there is a growing proliferation of interactive sites, blogs and forums that provide the possibility of solace, advice and empathy – allowing users to lay bare their feelings and share experiences with other people in similar situations. The beauty of these services is that they are anonymous, usually free and can be accessed from the privacy of your own home.

Earlier this month, Wikivorce, a social networking site for people in the UK contemplating or going through divorce, notched up its 10,000th registered member.

Launched a year ago by Ian Rispin, who “couldn’t accept that divorce needed to be quite so confusing, so damn difficult, deeply painful and horribly expensive”, it claims to have more than 1,000 visitors a day.

The website, www.wikivorce.com, offers a wide range of features, including a divorce forum and chat rooms. There are also divorce blogs, with more than 100 bloggers publishing stories of their daily lives during the divorce process.

Interestingly, Ian tells me there are more male members (52 per cent) than female (48 per cent), which lends support to my assertion that many men feel more comfortable discussing their feelings “virtually” than in person.

What I think is particularly helpful about web-based divorce services, especially social networking ones, is that they allow you to say the unsayable and confess things you wouldn’t want to tell a friend or relative in case they thought badly of you as a result.

While the internet will never replace a human shoulder to cry on, nor provide tailor-made legal advice, it is a useful tool that wasn’t available a handful of years ago. And when you’re going through a distressing time, you need all the help you can get.

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