Words by Natelegé Whaley. Art by Sam Liacos.
The ultimate guide to deleting traces of your former flame from your device.
Smartphones can be a gift or curse to your dating life. When a relationship is on, keeping the flames going with your partner—when you’re not in each other’s presence—is easier with the help of kissy emojis, late night FaceTiming, and sharing funny memes via social media. But when it all falls apart, deleting this digital paper trail can be a pesky task.
Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of the reminders they ever existed. When Facebook solely ruled social media, leaving behind your ex online was as simple as unfriending them. But now there are so many other apps logging our activity these days.
You can block them, but they still show up in photos on a friend’s timeline if you happen to be in the same social circle. Or if you have an ex like mine who still likes every photo you post on Instagram (although you never speak), it almost feels like breaking ties with them is completely impossible.
The rules of the game have surely changed because of technology, but there are still many ways to remove those ex-bae-files lurking on your mobile device so you can let go of them as best as possible. Here is your official guide to deleting your ex off your phone—for real.
Cell Phone Contacts
So you’re ready to delete your ex from your contacts or you’ve done so already. All good, right? Not quite. If your phone syncs contacts and other data with a cloud, there might be a chance their number is still in the cloud even if you’ve deleted it from your phone.
For iPhone users this may mean logging into your iCloud account and deleting the contact there so it does not show up down the line when you buy a new cell phone and download your contacts. For Android users, syncing contacts with Google contacts may require logging onto your Google account and deleting your former partner’s number there as well.
It’s important to note: if you choose to restore an earlier version of your iCloud that’s been archived, their contact can still be retrieved. Apple’s support site explains it here. Google allows you to restore contacts deleted within the last 30 days. So if you choose to do so, your old bae’s number can still pop up if it was deleted within timeframe.
Let’s say you and your ex split the cost for some dates here and there using Venmo. Once again, Venmo is a convenient way to do this. But unfortunately you can not delete any record of your Venmo transactions with another person.
“They are financial transactions and we are federally regulated just like the banks. They must be records of all transactions,” wrote Angelica G., a member of Venmo’s in-app support.
What you can do is make your transactions private if they aren’t already. This way, you can keep other folks out of your business–past, present, and future. To do so, go to settings and click “Privacy & Sharing.” Then go to “Private Transactions” and select “Make All Private.” More information on how to do this is here.
Unfriending your ex used to be so bad-ass back in the day. Unlike Twitter and Instagram, removing a friend from Facebook means you will no longer see an individual’s updates in your news feed, nor will you be able to have full access to their profile page, or leave messages on their timeline. But it turns out small traces of them can still haunt you on Facebook years later.
Let’s say my ex’s name is “Mark Johnson.” If I’m looking for another Mark, the first and last name of the Mark I used to date still pops up in the search box suggestions at the top of the list. He and I haven’t been friends on the app in seven years, and I haven’t searched his name much since then. Yet and still, he is the first “Mark” to pop up. The Facebook Help Center is filled with complaints about this. The company has yet to add a feature to hide these suggestions.
Here’s what you can do: You can clear your search history on Facebook so their name no longer comes up in your recent searches. To do this, click the search bar, then select “Edit,” followed by “Clear Searches.” See full details here. Facebook suggests logging out of your account and logging back in if you still see the recent searches after clearing them.
There is also this annoying feature called “friends you may know.” This box showcases profile links to individuals you should follow on Facebook based on your network. What if you want to avoid seeing your ex’s profile pop up there?
Currently, Facebook does not have a feature to stop this. There is Facebook Purity, a free browser extension, which gives you the option to hide the “Friends You May Know” from your Facebook feed. You can also hide dozens of other stories you don’t want to see.
After installing the extension, you must log onto Facebook to make the changes. There will be instructions and a link to Facebook Purity under your status box.
After clicking the link, a box will pop up with a list of options. Check off “People You May Know,” press save and close. The feature will only work in the browser you’re installing the extension to. If for some reason you buy a new computer and your browser settings haven’t saved, you will have to reinstall it again.
Ex-proofing your Instagram also requires some special attention. Even if you unfollow them on the app and delete every photo, it is still possible to see their profile show up in your search history or as a suggested profile to view.
Here’s what to do to clean this up: Clear your search history by heading over to your profile page and click the “Settings” icon. On the iPhone, it will be a gear icon. On an Android, it will be three vertical dots. At the bottom of the settings page, click “Clear Search History.”
If the user is still showing up as “Suggested” in the search, then tap on the profile and hold it until a prompt pops up to “Hide user.” Select “Hide” and they will no longer show up in the suggested search. Get the run down here on the Instagram support site.
It is important to note that even after doing this, your ex’s name may still pop up high in the drop down search list if you type their first name in the search box. The app has a similar issue as Facebook.
If your ex still follows you…You have the power to choose which followers see your Instagram Story. In the settings options, click “Story Settings.” At the top, click “Hide Story From.” The app will take you to a list of your followers, where you can then select the users. This method only works when hiding stories from those who follow you.
If your page is private and your ex unfollows you, they lose access to your Instagram stories. But what if your ex unfollows you, and you have a public page? They can still creep on your Instagram story.
You can stop them, though. When you share a story, you can see a drop down list of who viewed it. Let’s say your ex took a peek. You can zap them away by clicking the “x” next to their name. Instagram will notify you that this person can no longer view your stories going forth. Instagram will not notify them that they’ve been put on your Hide list.
When it comes to Twitter, there are several ways you can move on from the past. To start, you can search your username and your ex’s username to see your Twitter interactions. From there, you can delete your tweets to them. Remember, their tweets to you will still be there.
If you’re ready to unfollow them, you should also mute their profile. When you mute another profile, the user will not know you did. When they tweet you, their tweets will not show up in your notifications. This gives you peace of mind from ever receiving their updates and blocks you from seeing any tweets from them mentioning you. They can still reach out to you via DMs, however, and there isn’t a way to filter messages from one particular person in your DMs. You can mute a conversation, which will stop you from receiving notifications about their messages, but it won’t stop you from receiving messages from them. Read all about muting users on Twitter.
If you want to stop all communication with your ex on Twitter, the best way is to block them. They can no longer send you direct messages after this action.
Removing your ex from your “My Friends” list is one thing, but you have to double-check your “Who Can Contact Me” settings to cut them off completely. If you have this function set to “Everyone,” your ex can still contact you via chat and send you snaps. If you’re not okay with that, then you may have to change your privacy settings here.
What about your Snapchat story? You can control which friends see by going to the settings panel. Scroll down to the “Who Can…” section and click “View My Story.” Then select “Custom.” The screen will direct you to a list of your friends and you can choose the individuals you want to hide from. If your “View my Story” is set to “Everyone,” blocking that person can stop them from viewing after you’re no longer friends.
If your “View My Story” setting is set to “Friends,” then removing your ex from your friends list will stop them from seeing your story again.
Let’s say you’re a Gmail client, you might use the Gchat (a.k.a. Google Hangouts) feature to communicate with your network on a daily basis. When you’re done ex-proofing your phone and social media, don’t forget to clean up here as well. No need to be triggered or tempted to reach out to them by keeping their name on your contact list.
If you want to remove them from your list forever, you can block them. You have the option to hide them, too. Click the three vertical dots next to their username on the chat and select “Hide.” When I tested this across browsers, I found this can be done on Google Chrome and Firefox web browsers. While viewing on Safari, there wasn’t an option to hide a contact.
With all this said, happy forgetting and cheers to letting the past go. You deserve it.