After my last post about image management, you may find it amusing that I’m deleting tweets and Facebook (FB) posts. I’m not deleting my accounts. I’m just deleting posts. I’m leaving all my Pinterest pins and every other social network I’ve posted on, but those two biggies are undergoing a serious purge. I’ve left a whole lot of funny, serious, disrespectful, reverent and crazy tweets and posts in my wake. In general, it’s a mess. I’m cleaning it up.
I’m feeling a bit differently about deleting posts from each platform, though.
Back in the early days of Twitter, deleting tweets was considered to be quite poor form. The culture seemed to honor each and every post as sacred, and those who could not stand behind what they tweeted were seen as the worst self-serving dregs of internet society. Deleting tweets just wasn’t done, and those who dared were automatically assumed to be guilty of some egregious trespass and in dire need to cover their tracks.
That was over a decade ago. Times have changed.
Now, keeping a record of all your posts does little to serve you and is more likely to work against you. Any tweets older than 6-12 months usually serve very little good purpose for the account owner. No-one is looking at tweets 6-12 months old. Providing data for others who would use them for nefarious purposes isn’t the smartest move. Not only are the ad bots annoying and invasive, the climate of online culture has gotten downright vicious. People have been fired for 5-year-old tweets. Is keeping your stream in tact worth risk to your livelihood? Sure, you may stand behind everything you tweeted, but anything can look bad taken out of context. Jokes especially do not age well. And I’ve not been known to keep it serious on Twitter these last 11 years. So out it goes.
As I delete FB posts (by hand, for various reasons, the main one being there isn’t a satisfactory way to do it otherwise), I am feeling guilty. I am erasing Likes as well as posts. I’m untagging myself. I’m hiding things from my timeline that I can’t delete. Erasing myself from my friends’ “histories” tugs at my heartstrings. The thought of them going back to a post and not seeing my comment that perhaps they really appreciated (maybe?) makes me sad. In reality, though, very few of them will ever review their old posts, and if they do they won’t remember I was in the conversation. One friend did mention that it was a shame all my amusing posts would be gone. I didn’t ask if he regularly reviews old posts. I just felt sorry.
Facebook especially is a data stalker, and, simply put: I don’t feel comfortable with a long trail of data being present there anymore. And I am protecting my friends. The next time I’m targeted by a troll, I don’t want my friends to be trolled, too. A friend list is one thing but a troll may stalk my comments on their posts and begin to harass them too. I understand the situation is unlikely. Protecting my friends from any potential privacy invasions is yet another reason to erase my past presence on their Pages.
One friend mentioned archive sites may still have a hold of my tweets and perhaps even FB posts. Sure. But unless data crawlers are looking for my archive specifically (which, why would they?) then the archives don’t do me much data-trail harm. At least, not yet. Where the archives can do me harm today is this: one troll who is searching for a tweet that could seem damning out of context could trawl the archives. Thankfully internet archive sites can be spotty, and the typical call-out culture trolls tend to search the current Twitter site, not the archives. (Europe’s “Right to Be Forgotten” laws would be handy here in deleting those archives. We don’t have those protections here in the U.S.)
When I get to feeling nostalgic or panicky about my old tweets and FB posts, I remind myself that this is just the internet. It isn’t life. Many people don’t use FB or Twitter and their lives hum along normally. I’m not ending friendships; I’m deleting tweets. I can’t place too much value on data I barely own and was constructed with not much thought. Those posts may have been useful for a few seconds, maybe a few minutes, or a day if I hit a trend. It’s only garbage now.
Will this change the way I post? Yes. The vicious climate online had already affected my posting behaviors, so I expect that same level of caution to continue. But now that I’m realizing how difficult it is to delete these two particular data trails, I will definitely rethink every post. Instead of Liking and Commenting, I’ve been increasing my use of FB Messenger (via the browser version) and texting my friends more often.
I have not yet cleared out my Instagram profile (which is public) or my Flickr pages. I’ll consider doing that, too, but it is much harder to twist meanings of photos or trawl them for metadata that directly relates to me. That will change as bots get more sophisticated, of course.
Right now my concern is more immediate. I must decide whether or not to put my Instagram account on the private setting. I’m definitely leaning toward this although I have long been a public-stream kind of person. Since FB is a walled garden, it makes sense for Instagram to be. The days of the public stream on any site are probably over. Public streams will be left for brands and businesses, and the individual private streams will be standard. That’s how I see this all going. FB isn’t private enough, though, and I don’t know if it ever will be.
We’ll just have to keep cleaning until we no longer make any mess.
Smoke Phone pic: Geralt on Pixabay.
Facebook pic: Book Catalog on Flickr.
Eraser pic: Nicholas Erwin on Flickr.