It is a truth universally acknowledged that Twitter is a great place to share jokes and engage in debate, but it is also accepted that one’s Twitter timeline exists only to be weaponized by one’s enemies now that we live in an age where good will is dead and no one can conceive that the person they hate has a sense of humor.
As The Verge explains:
We live in an era when alt-right trolls and political operatives will spend hours scanning the online footprint of a smear campaign target, all with the purpose of dredging up past jokes and verbal faux pas to twist into context-less, career-costing hit jobs. Look at what happened to MSNBC contributor Sam Seder in December of last year, when prominent alt-right voices elevated a joke from 2009 into a fervor that cost him his broadcast gig. (MSNBC backpedaled shortly after.) This stuff happens all the time nowadays; the rulebook was codified during Gamergate and has since spread throughout the greater online culture war. Few people are professionally, financially, or mentally equipped to weather such a storm.
You might think no one will notice your jokes, or that they are so banal and obvious that no one could possibly misinterpret them, and you could be right.
But do you really want to take the chance?
The internet in 2018 is a capricious place, and mobs have formed for the most ridiculous reasons. Unless you want to set yourself up as a future target, you need to delete your Twitter timeline. (On the other hand, deleting your timeline might be held against you by someone who is bound and determined to twist your words and actions, so this could be a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.)
At the very least it is a good way to erase your tweets about the stupid things your pets were doing a decade ago.
Here are the three steps you should follow to clear your Twitter timeline.
1. Pick a service
There are a number of services out there that can delete your tweets, including:
TweetDelete is easily the most popular tool. It works with almost everyone, and can easily remove all your past tweets in a single go. Another free service that works from a desktop app is Twitter Archive Eraser. This didn’t work for me, but it did clear out a friend’s timeline. TwitWipe is another free option, although it has obnoxious advertising and is harder to use.
When it comes to paid options, TweetDeleter starts at $6 a month and lets you delete up to three thousand tweets per day. It will also let you auto-delete tweets after they reach a certain age. There’s also TweetEraser, which costs $7 for 30 days use. It supports importing Twitter archives, but it doesn’t support automatic deletion so if you want to delete tweets when they get too old then you’ll need to continue to pay for the service.
Any one of these options could work for you. Me, I went with TweetDelete. It scrubbed over 105 thousand tweets, but it didn’t remove all of the the photos and videos I tweeted which is great because I wanted to keep them anyway.
TweetDelete worked its magic in under an hour. That is both good news and bad news in that I appreciate the promptness but also wish I had thought to download my Twitter archive first.
2. Archive your tweets
Before you go nuclear on your Twitter timeline, wiping it from the face of the internet, you might want to save a copy of your tweets. If you are a user like me then you may have sometimes been using tweets to document events, store cute pet photos, or what have you. All this ephemera will be lost if you don’t backup your archive.
Also, at least one of the services mentioned above (Twitter Archive Eraser) requires your archive before it can do anything, so if you want to use it you will need to download the archive.
To access your archive, visit the Twitter website and open the settings menu. Select the “Your Twitter data” on the left-hand column, enter your password, and scroll down to the bottom where it says “Twitter archive”.
If you have the Twitter Android app, there’s an option several levels down under the privacy and settings menu where you can download your data, but I don’t recommend this method because it’s not clear whether this will give you a tweet archive or all the data on your account.
Click the “Request Archive” button to request the archive, and eventually you will get an email from Twitter informing you that you can download your archive in the form of a ZIP file. That ZIP file will contain an index.html file with the text, dates, and other details about your tweets.
Once you have that ZIP file, it’s time to break the cardinal rule of the internet, and make Twitter forger everything you said.
3. Delete your timeline
I would start with the three free services first, and if they don’t work for you then move on to the paid options.
TweetDelete worked great the second time I tried it, and it has worked for just about everyone I know who used it, so try it first. It can delete new tweets when they cross an age threshold, and it can also delete all existing tweets in your account. That second part might take a few minutes, but if you have a hundred thousand tweets like I used to have then TweetDelete might take an hour or more to make them all go to that great recycle bin in the sky.
Some people are reporting that TweetDelete can only delete 3,200 tweets at a time, which is strange because mine all vanished in the space of a few minutes.
Once you’ve deleted your timeline, be sure to set an auto-delete schedule so that your oldest tweets are erased as they age out. I set a threshold of one year, but you might want to set a threshold of 6 months, 90 days, or even 30 days.
It’s up to you.