Culling Your Social Media Past

Picture of a Delete Key

Last week, I wrote about data security when crossing the border, and my own…unease about my upcoming trip to Canada (and subsequent re-entry). One of the challenges, however, is that much of my social media is pretty wide open and easily accessible through a google search of my uncommon name.

Recently, my colleague Kris Shaffer began an experiment in digital minimalism. He wrote a post last week on deleting a large swath of his Twitter history based on Tweepy in Python. His step-by-step instructions are fantastic (and, really, a testament to how far I’ve come in terms of, if not learning to code, then looking at this and going, yeah, I could do that), but what was most interesting to me where is reasons behind the culling of his Twitter archive.

My use of Twitter has also changed. Some of that stems from my own personal changes, but also from ways in which the Twitter service has changed, and from the ways that others use it. Because of the rise of online abuse and harassment, I post less personal and family information on Twitter than I used to. And partly because of the potential for online abuse, or at least parasocial behavior, and partly because of the change in search capabilities, the kinds of conversations I had openly on Twitter in 2011 or 2012 are often the kinds of conversations that I would have on Slack or in private messages in 2016 and 2017.

Kris says he tweets a lot, but he doesn’t have anything on my 142k tweets.

Using his method, tweaked for my own needs, I now know I have:

  • 60629 RTs

  • 8478 tweets with swear words (unintended consequence – the initial count includes tweets that have anything to do with assessment, assistant, associate, class, pass, etc. So really it’s only 865 which seems really low)

  • 5248 #FYCchat tweets

  • 39969 tweets with links (

  • 42245 tweets that start with @ (thus a convo)

  • 108496 tweets with @ anywhere in it

  • 2220 tweets about hockey (well that mention hockey or my team)

  • 11920 about writing

I’ll admit now, I have a hard time pulling the trigger on actually deleting tweets. I hoard media, after all. And really deleting 616 tweets seems like a small drop in the GIANT OCEAN that is my Twitter archive. But this has kinda been a fun way to think about culling my Twitter history and counting how many times I’ve said or done certain things.

There are also resources for deleting old Facebook posts, as well as Instagram posts.

Have you considered or managed to delete parts or all of your social media posts? How? Why?

[Image Delete Key by Ervins Strauhmanis licensed CC-BY 2.0 ]

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