Users

How to Reset Your Digital Life After a Breakup

Your guide to dividing (or deleting) shared accounts.

Illustration: A woman wields giant scissors about to cut a set of balloons featuring various service logos. A man is clutching the balloons by their strings below where the woman is going to cut them.
Doris Liou

A breakup in the modern era isn’t just about divvying up books and tchotchkes and going your separate ways. Today, a relationship means you’re intertwined online and off.
There’s a bevy of shared digital assets, accounts, and apps that may need to be dealt with as your romantic union ends.

The most natural way to split up the Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Spotify is by who signed up with their credit card and email address. For a completely shared account—one with a shared email and a joint credit card—you’ll have to decide whether it makes most sense to delete the account altogether or let one person take control of it. From there, you’ll want to change the billing information and the password.

But when you’re an emotional Jenga tower, it can be difficult to remember—and then navigate—your way around the often complicated process of online account change and deletion. Here’s a rundown of many of the services you and your partner may have come to share over months or years of a relationship, and how to ensure your account and its data is secure or eliminated entirely.

Streaming services

Upon cohabitation, streaming services are some of the first things you may have consolidated (along with the living room furniture and diningware). In one household, there’s no reason for separate HBO Go, Netflix, or Hulu accounts—especially since many services offer family plans or separate user profiles. If your breakup is amicable, you may be tempted to keep your streaming service–sharing situation as is, but do so at your own peril: Eventually one or both of you will start dating other people, and explaining to your new partner that you still share a Netflix account with your ex will undoubtedly be an awkward conversation.

On Netflix, you’ll want to log in on the web. On this page, you can edit the user profiles associated with your account—if you and your ex had separate ones for your personal TV and movie preferences, you can delete theirs. After that, you’ll want to select one of the remaining user profiles to go to the Netflix home screen and then tap “Account” from the drop-down menu in the upper right. At the top of your account page, you can edit the email associated with your account, the password, and the billing information. If you want to delete your account altogether, scroll down to “Plan Details” and then tap “Cancel Streaming Plan” or “Cancel DVD Plan.” When you click, you’ll have to confirm your decision with one more button press. Netflix holds onto your viewing history for 10 months after you close your account, in case “you decide to come back during that time.”

For a shared Spotify account, you’ll want to head into your account settings on the web to update the email associated with the account, change the billing information, or change the type of account subscription you have. On the main account overview page, Spotify also has a convenient button to “Sign Out Everywhere,” which will log you out on all devices you’ve used Spotify with in the past. If you want to cancel your subscription and return to a free account, Spotify has two options depending on whether you signed up on its website or app, or through another company (such as iTunes). Once you’ve done this, you can choose to fully close your account—which deletes all your playlists, songs in your library, and retires your username. To close your account, follow the directions here. But what if your ex is taking ownership of the Spotify account…and you actually like their music and playlists? In this case, you should open your own account, search for their username or playlist names, and then follow those playlists.

Paying for an HBO Now subscription you don’t intend to use anymore? To cancel your subscription, HBO offers a guide here with instructions depending on who your billing provider is. To change your password or the email associated with the account so it’s yours and yours alone, head into the app on your mobile device and tap “Settings.” Select “Profile,” then “Edit.” Alternatively, you can sign in on the web to do this from the desktop.

To change your Hulu password, log in and then hover your mouse pointer over your name in the upper right and then tap “Account.” Under the “Personal Info” tab, tap “Change” to change your password—unless you signed up via Facebook, in which case you’ll need to head to Facebook to change your password. To delete your Hulu account, head to your account page, tap “Update” (in the personal info section), and then select “Delete My Hulu Account.” You’ll have to enter your password, then tap a confirmation button to complete the task.

Amazon

A shared Amazon Prime account is more challenging to divvy up because it has so many parts: the annual membership, which affords expedited shipping on products and exclusive discounts; access to Amazon Prime video; a library of movies or TV shows you may have purchased; and the Amazon Kindle Library of e-books. Amazon also owns other popular services such as the streaming video platform Twitch and podcast purveyor Audible.

If your Amazon account was associated with a shared email address, you will want to change that to one of your private email addresses instead. To do this, head to your account and then click “Login & Security.” Tap the edit button next to the items you want to change, such as the name, email address, and password. Follow the on-screen instructions, hit “Save Changes,” and then hit “Done.”

Before deciding who “gets” the Amazon Prime account, you may want to look through the stored movies, Kindle titles, and music. Whoever has used the most of these nontransferable assets should probably retain ownership, while the other party gets a Prime account of their own. In your Prime Video library, you can delete purchases you no longer care to watch, but unfortunately, there’s no way to transfer purchases from one account to another.

To close an Amazon account altogether, you need to log in and then head to the “Contact Us” page and fill out the online form. Once closed, you’ll no longer have access to Amazon services or Amazon sites such as Audible using your Amazon account, and you also won’t have access to your past purchase history.

To avoid this issue in the future, you can create an Amazon Family Library or Amazon Household, which allows you and your partner to have separate but linked accounts. (It allows for account creation for kids and teens, as well.) With these options, payment methods are shared between the separate accounts, while the shipping address is the same. An Amazon Household account can include up to 10 members (two adults, four teens, and four kids). The linked adult accounts can share a number of Prime benefits such as Prime Shipping and Prime Now, Prime Video, Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and Audible Channels. Teens aren’t able to share digital content with others in the household; kids can only access content authorized by their parents. To leave a household, or remove a parent from the household, head to “Manage Your Household” within your Amazon settings, then either select “Leave” below your own name, or “Remove” below the other parent’s. Once you’ve left a household, Amazon bars you from joining a new household for 180 days. (You can rejoin your old household during that period, if you choose.)

Email, social media, and cloud storage

Shared email, cloud storage, and photo storage services may be more complicated to deal with since the information stored may be relevant to both parties.

Deleting an iCloud account is not incredibly straightforward—to do so, you actually have to head to your Apple ID management page here. At the bottom of this page, tap “Manage your data and privacy.” When you click that, you’re taken to a page that gives you an option to either “Correct your data” or “Delete your account” (and all its associated data). You’ll want to select the latter to begin the account deletion process.

Before this, however, you’ll want to do a few things. If you have photos or important data stored on any of the devices associated with your iCloud account, you’ll want to make sure you’ve downloaded them to another device or cloud storage provider. That includes backing up your contacts, email, and calendar, if those are tied to your formerly shared iCloud account. For contacts, you can do this on a Mac by opening the Contacts app and then heading to “File,” “Export,” and then “Contacts Archive.” This builds a file you can download to another Mac and subsequently sync with a new iCloud account. If you want to do this via your phone rather than on a Mac, you’ll need to use a third-party contacts manager (you can find a few good options here). For calendar entries, again you’ll want to manually export the full calendar on a Mac and download it on to another machine to transfer events to a new iCloud account. With photos, an important reminder is that deleting an item from your iCloud Photo Library deletes it from all the devices associated with that account, so if you begin deleting items from your device, make sure it’s only in the Photos app itself. Once you’ve done all that, you’ll want to remove devices associated with your Apple ID, turn off Find my iPhone, and make sure you’re signed out of any and all iOS or Mac devices associated with that account.

If you decide to delete a Google or Gmail account, first take stock of what you’ll be losing: all the past emails stored on that account, past and upcoming calendar events, photos, and files sent to that account. You’ll also lose any Chrome bookmarks you’ve made while logged in. If that’s all good, you will want to download any important data—instructions here—before completing the account deletion process here. Like with an iCloud account, you can export your Google Calendar (as a ZIP file), which you can then use with a new Gmail account; you can also export contacts associated with that account by heading to Google Contacts, selecting the checkmark next to names you want to export, tapping “More,” and then selecting “Export.” If you have photos and videos stored in Google Photos, you can backup and sync those files to your desktop before deleting or removing yourself from a Google account.

While you likely don’t share Facebook accounts, you may be friends or “In a relationship”—ties that may need untangling. If you don’t want to draw unwanted attention to a change in relationship status, head to the “About” section of your profile and set your relationship status to “Only Me.” From there, you can change it to whatever you want, without friends seeing or commenting on it. If you’re not ready to unfriend your ex, you also have options for not seeing their posts: You can choose to “Snooze” their posts from your feed for 30 days or unfollow their activity by tapping the three-dot icon in the upper right of one of their posts. You can similarly mute them on Instagram without actually unfollowing them. While you’re perfectly within your rights to unfriend or unfollow your ex, these options remove your ex from your feed without their knowing, allowing you to check in on their posts when it’s right for you, and saving the embarrassment of having to re-friend or re-follow at some point in the future if you become friends again.

Internet and cellphones

The process of moving out is tedious, painful, and awkward. If you’re the one leaving and some utilities were in your name, you may be tempted to leave them as-is “to be nice,” or let your former partner handle the process of changing the name associated with the account. Don’t be naive. Cancel or transfer billing responsibility yourself as soon as you’ve found yourself a new home to avoid dings to your credit if your ex decides they aren’t going to pay those bills.

As you would with a move, you may need to cancel internet or cable/satellite service at your old abode, or transfer service to a new place. Comcast’s Xfinity offers a useful for hub for how to transfer your service if you’re moving. AT&T U-verse lets you move your service, transfer billing to another individual (which you can do here), or cancel your service altogether. Other internet providers such as Charter/TimeWarner and Cox have similar online guides for porting your service to a new address, transferring billing responsibility, or canceling service. If you’re transferring service, you may be charged installation fees—even if you do the setup yourself—for your new location. Canceling your service altogether can be more of a headache, as you will likely need to call customer service yourself or visit a local service center.

When you make the call, take notes of the time of your call and who you talked with in case your service isn’t shut down as intended. You’ll also want to be firm and insistent with the customer service representative: Their job is to keep you from canceling your service. During one breakup, I personally found that telling the representative we’d split, I was moving to a place with existing internet service, and I had no intention of paying for my ex’s service rendered the call very quick and surprisingly painless.

If you and your ex shared a data plan, you may want to make changes to that plan. Here, you have two options: You can remove their device(s) or phone lines from the data plan, or if they plan to stay with the same carrier, you can transfer the billing responsibility of those devices. You will likely still be responsible for making the full account payment through your current billing period, however. Depending on whether you’re on a multiyear contract or not, you may also have additional fees to contend with for these changes. For T-Mobile, you will have to contact its Customer Care team here to remove a device from your plan or transfer ownership of a line, and the latter could incur an early termination fee; ATT has steps on how to transfer billing responsibility for a line here, but to cancel a line you’ll have to call 800-331-0500 and you may be subject to an early termination fee; on Sprint, you can add or remove devices from your account in the “Permissions” section of your My Sprint online account and change ownership of a phone line with the directions here; and Verizon offers steps for transferring billing responsibility here, or for cancelling a line, you’ll have to head into a store or call 800-922-0204.