How to navigate a digital divorce

March 17, 2014

Sad songs say so much…but what to do when your ex has control of your iTunes account?

The real-world division that always comes with a break-up now includes a digital divide as well.  As couples part, they are unfortunately discovering a hard truth about today’s digital world: much of their shared experiences, including songs, photos, and their social world, exists online.  As nearly every aspect of our lives becomes entwined in the digital world, it’s ever more difficult to untangle the shared threads.

A recent study by researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz and Lancaster University underscores this point. It surveyed Gen Y’ers (presuming that this cohort would be on the leading edge of tech) and found that couples shared their lives across digital processes and platforms. More than 40% had shared photos, 20% shared social media, and 7% had shared music accounts.

What to do with all this shared data in the unfortunate instance of a breakup? Before you get overwhelmed, remember that what we’re dealing with is in some ways nothing more than a new twist on an age-old conundrum. True, there are gadgets and digital assets to be divvied up, but it’s not that different from splitting the proceeds of the house sale or handing custody of the dog to the person who feeds and walks it. For the most part, your digital investments can either be divided in half or only one person gets them. Digital services terms, agreements, and conditions that state what happens- when or if they are transferred – should allow some parameters for moving forward.

Social media can be a trickier proposition: it’s not as simple as changing your Facebook status or unfriending your ex. What to do with all your mutual friends who are part of your online social circle? And when and how to tell your online circle that your relationship has changed? Or which level of contacts to tell, depending on how many contacts you have? These are all questions to give some objective thought to, and to make in as an unemotional way as possible.

Of course, the situation becomes even more delicate when you have shared business acquaintances with your ex, or your personal and business acquaintances are in your circle. Proceed with caution on this one.  I know many of my friends have separate accounts for their personal and business lives, and in times like this that strategy can be very helpful.

There is no rule that says that a real-world heartbreak has to lead to a digital meltdown, but this does happen all too easily. My next blog will look at the way the online world is causing major reverberations in divorce.

In the meantime, please download my new ebook which goes into greater detail about all things you should consider when faced with a Digital Divorce.

March 17, 2014