Digital Death Clean: How To Wipe Your Ex Out Of Your Life

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Illustrated by Lindsay Hattrick

I have a bit of a slash-and-burn preference when it comes to managing recent exes; as in, I try to push them far away from my eyes, ears, screens, and general orbit. Breakup etiquette varies by the individual, of course, but I’m a big believer in ceasing Facebook friendship (or, at the very least, unfollowing). It’s weird to feel nostalgic for the time when that was enough to banish an ex from your pixelated portals—now, the measure is only one facet in a series of controlled burn tactics.

Even after unfriending, then unfollowing on Instagram and Twitter, there's still work to be done to scrub all those timelines of your ex. Enter: the Digital Death Clean. It sounds metal because it is—and it works. Let’s look at how to rid your internet and phone of crummy former flings once and for all.

Facebook
Yes, in theory, simply ending a Facebook friendship should mean you never have to see said unfriended person on your feed ever again. And yet! It’s not exhaustive; namely, your search history never forgets. Until you tell it to. Clear your Facebook search history by clicking into the search bar. From there, hit edit, and clear searches. Gone! This is a good option if you don’t want to be so extreme as to full-on block them from ever viewing your profile (and you theirs).

Twitter
Again, blocking is always an option, but the mute button is a little less visceral. Fam, this function has been around since 2014. Head to their account (which you perhaps have already unfollowed), click the three dots next to the follow button, and select mute. From there, you shouldn’t see any interactions they have had with your mutuals. Tight.

Instagram
You got options here: As with Twitter, you can mute their account (toggle to their account, hit the three dots in the top right corner, mash mute). Or, as with Facebook, you can reset your search history back to a clean slate—which, TBH, doesn’t seem like a bad idea every now and then regardless of recent heartbreak. To do the latter: Go to your profile, hit the gear icon on an iPhone or the three dots on an Android (both in the top right corner, aka “settings"), tap search history, and then clear.

In case you have a momentary lapse and want to “check in” on their account, know that this will intro their handle back into your search history. Throw some proverbial Clorox on any possibility of that by permanently hiding their handle. Visit the search page, hit the search bar, tap top or people, tap and hold the account(s) you want to avoid, and then mash "hide."

And, assuming you want to avoid any future orbiting instances, block them from viewing your Insta stories like so: Pull up any of your existing stories, hit the "more" option in the bottom right corner, select story settings from the pop-up menu, then “hide story from” and select their account. That golden content is a privilege, not a right. (Note: If they don’t follow you, this option won’t work. Perhaps consider going private for a spell or something? Remember that public profiles—including stories—are public to, uh, the public.)

Snapchat
Knock that baby outta your friends list first, then—you might not like this one—change your story setting to friends-only. Unfortunately, if you keep that and your contact settings open to everyone, that means even non-friends can pay you a virtual visit—including someone who possibly did you pretty dirty in the past (I mean your ex[es]).

Venmo
It should be illegal that unfriending someone on Facebook doesn’t automatically abolish them from your Venmo as well. Alas. Visit their profile, hit the three dots in the top right corner (noticing a trend now, eh?), select block. You have absolutely no need to keep up with their paying a roommate for electricity each month—let alone any current or future transactions with A Hot Person. Life is hard enough; don’t add in the extra energy suck of paranoia regarding who “Katie N.” is and what the hell all those random emojis mean.

Spotify
Is your old bae jamming hot, new, very clear sex bangers now? Ones you don’t recall them ever enjoying before? You’ll feel crummy. Is old bae jamming old songs that y’all used to call “ours”? You’ll feel crummy then, too. There is no winning. Unfortunately, Spotify does not offer blocking functionality, so you will just have to unfollow (go to their profile, hit the button that says “following” till it confirms by reading “follow”) until the app remedies that oversight—which, hopefully, Spotify will be pressured to do soon. In some troubling stalking scenarios, some users have reported people monitoring their song listening to further harass them. At least Spotify ended its inbox feature?

iPhone contact
Something sorta fun is that Apple has made it a headache to swiftly and fully delete a contact from its memory. I have anecdotal evidence that just because you delete a contact does not mean it is actually gone; as such, sometimes as little as three letters (combined with three margs) can resurrect a phone number from the dead. No, thank you! Also, heaven forbid you date two Chrises in a row (but really). Click through recent calls or text messages till you land on their number. Tap their number and scroll through options like call, FaceTime, etc., until you land on “remove from recents.” SMASH IT. (Bonus: From here, you can also permanently remove their birthday from your calendars.)

Android user? No worries—look for info on how to do the same on your device here.

iMessage predictive text
Talk about new beginnings. Kinda sucks how radical your only option is here—but not as much as every time you start to type “whatever,” and the word quickly rearranges to form a loathsome ex’s last name. You need to reset your keyboard dictionary, bb. To do this: Go into your iPhone settings, hit general, then reset, and—finally—"reset keyboard dictionary." Most phones prompt your passcode before allowing such a nuclear blast. Yes, you will have to manually re-enter the “shrug” to “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” but, on the bright side, you are now free to “whatever” your brains out without reliving the time dude left skid marks on your sheets yet refused to accept blame.

And that, friend, is true freedom.