I think I speak for many people with Instagram accounts when I say there are few feelings that gut your more than when someone unexpectedly sees your Instagram search history.
My stomach drops and my mind starts to race as I attempt to remember the last few people I snooped on while lurking on the app.
Whether it’s someone leaning over your shoulder to watch you look up an Instagram account you were both just talking about or they borrow your phone to quickly search for a profile themselves — those first few Instagram handles that appear in the search bar are basically always embarrassing.
While I don’t have the answer as to why we’re (probably) all like this, I do have the answer on how you can hide that you are like this. All you have to do is destroy the evidence with a couple clicks.
Here’s how to clear your Instagram search history with a few simple steps, on both the app and desktop:
1. Head to your Instagram profile
The first step is to click on your profile icon. Then, tap on the three clustered dashes in the right-hand corner of your Instagram account.
2. Access your Settings
When the pop-up menu appears, tap on Settings. Then, find and tap on the Security tab.
3. Clear your Instagram search history
Ah, the step you’ve been waiting for to keep your lurking quiet.
Once you’re in the Security section, tap on “Clear Search History” all the way at the bottom.
This brings you to all of your recent searches, at which point you can tap on “Clear All” in the right-hand corner.
It’s important to note that clearing your entire search history can seem a bit suspicious.
Thankfully, you also have the option to delete specific parts of your browsing history, aka the most embarrassing searches, individually (your ex, your ex’s new partner, your ex’s partner’s coworkers, etc.) by tapping on the “x” next to their Instagram handles instead.
You can also do this by simply going into the Search tool on the app to avoid having to go through the aforementioned steps. At the bottom of the search tool, you will see a section called “Recent,” where all your searches live. You can hit the “x” next to each search you’d like to obliterate.
But, depending how long your search history is, tapping on the “Clear All” button might be quicker. Especially when you only have a few seconds before someone may spot the evidence of your mortifying search history.
4. Don’t forget to clear your search data on the Instagram web browser too
Of course, your Instagram search history is different if you’re using the app on a web browser.
To delete it on the desktop version, go to Settings and click on your profile photo in the upper right-hand corner.
Then, tap on the Settings icon and the “Privacy and Security” tab, over on the left menu. Scroll down and click on Account data and then “View Account Data.”
Under the “Account Activity” tab, you’ll see “Search History” and the option to “View All.” Then, click “Clear Search History” and “Yes, I’m Sure” to delete the list of Instagram handles. (You might also just want to delete your browser history while you’re at it.)
While all these steps might sound confusing at first, I promise you (from experience) you’ll have them all down and memorized quicker than a friend or family member can say: “Hey, l’m gonna use your phone to look someone up on Instagram.”
Breathe a sigh of relief. They won’t find a thing.
This story was published in May 2020 and updated in December 2021.