Covering Your Twitter Tracks

Twitter has been around since early 2006, which means that some early adopters (like myself) have over a decade of tweets on the service. Although obscured by Twitter’s UX, persistent individuals can continually scroll backwards or use Twitter’s Advanced Search feature to attempt to dig up one’s posts from yesteryear. Digging through a notable individual’s Twitter history has become en vogue lately, as old tweets that are abhorrent, questionable, and/or out of context can lead to the dismissal of movie directors and unwanted conversations about our sports athletes.

The reasons that this keeps happening are multiple. Many users, at least in the early days of Twitter, kept their profiles private, which meant they had to approve each follower. This led some individuals to feel as though the conversation was secret (to a certain extent, at least) and away from Twitter’s universal search tools. As Twitter’s popularity rose and its usefulness as a utility became obvious, many switched their profiles to public to participate in public conversations around things such as the Super Bowl, Game of Thrones, or whatever the current zeitgeist was centered around – surfacing every utterance that they once thought to be sequestered.

There’s also the obvious truth where people grow and change over time. My Twitter account was activated when I was a wide-eyed college freshman, and to say that it has changed and developed considerably over the intervening years is an understatement. Consider that many of the tweets now being exposed to publicly shame young celebrities or athletes originate from the Twitter account of a thirteen year old at the time of publishing, and you can start to see why some of the “jokes” are made. Of course, this does not explain away particularly hateful statements, especially when there is a pattern of such thoughts.

Fortunately, there are tools to help manage one’s past Twitter life. The right tool for your account depends on how long it has been around and how many tweets it has. If your account has less than 3,200 tweets, you’ll have a relatively easy time wiping out your past. TweetDelete is a free service that hooks into your Twitter account and will automatically delete tweets that are older than a certain threshold – anywhere from a week to a month to a year. Turning it on will ensure that your account is constantly being cleaned of stale posts. You can also have it delete all existing tweets prior to beginning this cleaning cycle, which can be handy if you just want to wipe the slate clean or don’t know how far back you should go.

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If you have more than 3,200 tweets, or want a more selective approach to deleting old content, you’ll have to enlist the use of the Twitter Archive Eraser. This tool requires you to request and download your account’s archive from Twitter first, as it will use your archive’s data to enumerate your entire Twitter history and give you full control over what content you want to remove.

Note: You can request your account’s Tweet archive by logging into twitter.com, clicking on your profile image to go to your Account settings, then going down to “Your Tweet Archive” under the Content header and requesting your archive download link to be emailed to you.

Once you authenticate to your Twitter account with the tool, you’ll be asked to point to your archive file. Archive Eraser will then show you which years and months you have tweets for, and you can choose which ones you want to delete content from. For me, I select everything prior to 2017.

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You’ll then be presented with a full enumeration of every tweet that falls into the range of dates that you selected in Step 2. It’s here that you can choose to keep select tweets that have certain historical or sentimental value to you. I decided to keep around some content from important moments in my life, such as attending the World Series or celebrating a friend’s birthday.

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The tool will take some time to run if you have a lot of tweets in your account – for me, it had to go through and delete over 18,000 old tweets! Once it’s done, your tweets are gone for good – try to run the tool again or use Twitter’s advanced search if you feel the need to confirm.