You’re probably not the same person you were five years ago. Even if you are, Twitter is absolutely not the same place it was in its early days. The freewheeling low-stakes website for throwing bad jokes into the abyss has transformed into an enormous public forum inhabited by just about everyone who’s anyone, plus a legion of the worst people on the planet.
Two roads diverge in a Twitter wood
There are effectively two ways to delete your tweets. The first is a service like Tweet Delete, which plugs into your Twitter account and goes to town. Tweet Delete is free and easy but incomplete—it will only rid the world of your 3,200 most recent tweets. Let’s call this a “light delete.”
The second approach is more involved and generally comes with a fee. Take TweetEraser. It comes with a $7 price tag but is a much more thorough scrub that will get rid of all your tweets, forever. Let’s call this the “full delete.”
The reason for the two tiers comes down to a limitation in Twitter’s Application Programming Interface (API). In short, Twitter gives applications (like tweet-deleters) access to only your most recent Tweets, while the rest are inaccessible. You can still find these on your feed (and so can other people). You might go through and delete them yourself, but they’re out of range of light delete apps. Full delete tools get around this limitation generally by asking you to upload an archive of your tweets, which gives them a full map instead of the limited one they’d get from Twitter’s API, thereby bypassing Twitter’s API limitations.
There is a third option, which is to use a light delete method like Tweet Delete over and over again, each time sloughing off the 3,200 most recent tweets on your account. Depending on your number of tweets, this might be feasible, if arduous. And if you have fewer than 3,200 tweets in total, I admire your restraint! Go have a beer with the time and money you’ve saved!
First thing’s first
Whatever path you choose, your first step should be to request your Twitter archive. If you’re doing a light delete, this is just for posterity, so you can skip it. But full deleters may need to go through with it.
Go to Twitter (in the tab you probably already have open) and click your user icon in the top right corner of your home screen. Then, click Settings and Privacy and scroll down to the button that says Request your archive. Now click the button.
Twitter will warn you that this process can take a little time, but when your archive is done, it’ll be emailed to the email account associated with your Twitter. If you don’t get it, revisit our button friend and click again for another email.
Pull the trigger
Now that you’ve got your archive, it’s time to get down to business. Simply connect your Twitter account to your deletion mechanism of choice and follow its instructions. Whatever the method, don’t expect the results to be instant or free of strangeness. It’ll take Twitter some time to properly respond to your exodus of tweets and update the numbers that appear on your profile accordingly. If things seems strange, wait a tick, especially if your method is running Tweet Delete repeatedly to cull more than 3,200 tweets.
Once you’ve dispensed with your archive, you’ll have a choice about how to go forward. With Tweet Delete, you can set the app to automatically remove any tweets older than a certain age. This can be great for maintaining hygiene, but it requires you to let Tweet Delete have constant access to your Twitter account (and while Tweet Delete shows no indications of being malicious, this is a security risk). Alternatively, you could go in and re-delete on a routine basis, or simply start building up a new archive until you get anxious again.
If you do set a service to automatically delete your tweets, you may also want to consider finding a way to archive them in real time—especially if you are a data hoarder. One option, the one I use, is to use the IFTTT service to immediately archive a tweet into a spreadsheet the moment it is tweeted. That way, when it ages out and gets deleted, you’ll already have a backup tucked away outside of Twitter.
Viola—you are free from the chains of your old tweets. Just remember, going forward, that perhaps the best way to keep your sanity is just to never tweet at all.
Previously published by: Popular Mechanics USA