Let’s just say it: Breakups are hard, and the associated extra admin feels more like insult to injury than anything else. As your life gets turned upside down, even the notion of buying your own wine bottle opener can be difficult. It’s therefore easy to overlook the fact that carving your own space and boundaries in the digital world can be just as important as doing so in the real one.
If you or a friend have recently gone through a breakup, do them a favor and share this article with them. For the rest of you with unbroken hearts, let this serve as a healthy reminder about the need for control over your own online space and awareness over the risks of giving anyone access to your private information. Here is a checklist of questions a person in this position should ask themselves.
Does someone have access to my accounts?
The very first thing you should do is change passwords for streaming services and any accounts you have given your ex access to. Not only is it not psychologically healthy to see the name of your exes profile every time you log into Netflix, having access to seemingly innocent accounts leaves open the door both for snooping and sabotage.
Remember, giving someone access to an online service account gives them both the knowledge of your using habits, as well as potentially access to your payment information. Our recent survey in the U.K discovered that almost 400,000 Britons have knowingly used the account of an ex to watch a streaming service.
It’s not a nice thought to have – the possibility that a previously trusted companion could feel enough malice towards you to actively seek out ways to hurt you. But let’s think logically for a moment: who hasn’t heard of things going sour after a breakup, despite initial assurances from both parties that this would not happen.
To paraphrase a Stephen King quote: Monsters live inside all of us, and sometimes they win. For peace of mind if nothing else, make sure you are the only one with access to your Netflix .
Am I logged in on someone else’s device?
In line with the previous question, do consider whether you have left your gmail address or payment details onto an exes tablet or laptop. I mention Gmail specifically because it is a very commonly used email service with easy swapping between accounts on a device.
This coupled with the fact that resetting a password to most other accounts requires only access to a person’s email account, making it something of a master key – that is unless you are taking advantage of the most important security acronym out there, 2FA. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a setting which prevents anyone from accessing an account from a new device with just a password – SMS verification or another email address is also required.
Don’t have 2FA enabled? If so, put this article down (or, you know, switch browser tabs), go enable it for at least Facebook and Gmail before you do anything else. If you get distracted by memes and don’t make it back to this article, that’s ok – as long as 2FA is activated. Here are the current instructions on how to do so on desktop devices for Facebook and Gmail.
- Go to your Security tab here.
- Scroll to “Use 2-factor authentication” and click edit
- Choose the method you wish to use – In my opinion, SMS is the easiest.
For Gmail, find instructions here. This will also secure your YouTube account and other Google services, and is strongly recommended for everyone. 2FA takes only minutes to set up and is among the best defences against a number of cyber threats, be it a scornful ex or cyber criminal aiming to commit identity theft.
How can I know if someone is cyber stalking me?
It’s a sad truth that letting go of someone can be difficult, and the temptation to keep tabs on an ex is just the kind of toxic behavior that is easier to do in a digital age. We’re so accustomed to sharing our daily existence on social media that it’s easy to forget what an open book our lives are.
This obviously doesn’t apply to ALL breakups, but for your and your exes sake, the easiest route is to just unfollow/block each other on social media. The adult thing to do is to at least notify the person, explaining that it’s probably for the best to take some distance from each other for a while. Either they’ll be mature about it, or you were definitely right to cut them off.
In a way, many of the rules that apply between exes in the “real” world transfer to the digital one, where it’s probably best to keep some distance, take back your keys and change the locks if you have any reason to believe they will overstep their boundaries. The difference is that digital matters are easier to overlook.