digital ex-proofing

Reader E. S. writes:

Do you have any advice for removing an ex from your digital life? I mean beyond Facebook blocking, etc.

Dear E.S.:

Okay, Facebook blocking is not necessarily my first advice. You should always set limits on your privacy settings on Facebook so the folks you don’t want seeing stuff won’t be seeing stuff, whether they are exes or not. You don’t have to defriend or block someone to avoid seeing them on Facebook. You can remove their posts from appearing in your feed; you can put them in a special privacy setting so they can’t post to your wall; there’s all kinds of tricks on Facebook for limiting the contact you have with someone without going so far as to block them. I save blocking for the most extreme cases. (I have officially only blocked 2 people in all my years of being on Facebook.) I wouldn’t block someone unless you absolutely know you never want to see their ugly mug ever again. And who knows? You may want to be friends with your ex someday. Maybe.


Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My first advice (after that extremely diverting paragraph above) would be to make a list of all the places where you have a digital share with your ex, and methodically remove the ex from those places. Facebook is a good place to start; there’s also Twitter, Google Buzz (if someone still uses that), Google Latitude (this is especially important in the block sense unless you want them knowing where you are), Flickr, MySpace (haha right), your blog, etc. If you really want the ex out of your life, block him/her from all of it. You will probably have to look him/her up via username and make sure he/she isn’t allowed to access anything on an individual basis. Create a rule in your email account that redirects his/her emails to spam or automatically deletes them.

If you have lived together, or were together for a long period of time, you probably know a lot of each other’s passwords. Make a list of all the accounts you once shared that he/she should no longer have access to, and change the password. Netflix; bank accounts; PayPal; the gas or electric or water bills… Change ’em. If you’re still being nice to your ex, inform him/her that you are changing the passwords. He/she shouldn’t have a problem with this, but you might as well give fair warning. (Other than, of course, breaking up, which should be fair warning.)

This may be common sense advice to some, but many people don’t realize it: don’t share you passwords for personal accounts (Facebook, email, personal bank account) with ANYONE. And if you do, change ’em often. Most people re-use the same single lame ass predictable password over and over. Don’t do that. If you’re going to share a password with someone for any reason, make sure it’s something you don’t use on any of your other accounts.

Personally, I have separate passwords for almost everything. For my financial accounts, I use a different password every time, and they are super complicated. My email and Facebook passwords might be the same (or similar) so I can remember them, but they get changed every single time one of my friends gets hacked.

Hopefully your ex is a good enough person to leave your accounts alone once things are over. I am 80% sure I can still log into one of my ex’s Netflix accounts, but I don’t, because I am as out of that relationship as he is. But whether or not I trust him to stay out of any accounts he may have learned the password to, by changing those passwords, I remove the temptation. One less reason to have a heated argument later on. Giving up the rights to digital areas is the same as giving up the rights to having a copy of your housekey — when you’re dating, it might be convenient for him or her to have access; when you’re broken up, it is absolutely not something the ex should expect. Take back your housekeys, your car keys, and your passwords!

Be forewarned, however, that if you have lots of the same friends, you are not going to be able to completely remove the ex from your digital life. She’ll show up on friends’ Facebook pages (unless she’s blocked, but even then, if she’s tagged in a photo with friends of yours, you’re gonna’ see her face in the shot). He’ll show up in a direct response on a friend’s Twitter feed or a re-tweet. It just happens. You can either defriend any of the people you know in common, or get used to it.


1 Response to “digital ex-proofing”

  1. 1 Tony
    April 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    On that last point, keeping tabs on your ex’s friends is a good idea. At the very least, if you can see them posting about having a night on the town or some such, you might be prepared if they all show up at your favorite bar/hangout.

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