Quick challenge: go through your Twitter timeline and read the tweets you sent 10 years ago without cringing.
Yeah, I failed too.
If you feel like your first few years on social media were just one, big teenage mess, don’t worry, you’re not alone. As someone who grew up at the dawn of the entire social media industry (do any of you even remember Friendster?), I have a lot to be embarrassed about, especially on Twitter, where the then-140 character limit was a test of wit and creativity. I mean, which part of the chorus of M2M’s “Pretty Boy” was I going to post just so Josh from the 3rd period Math can notice me?!
Aside from questionable song lyric tweets, I also tweeted a bunch of random, ignorant opinions about things I knew nothing about, and I now regret. After all, we all grew up and looking back now, I really shouldn’t have said a lot of things that I did.
Going through my Twitter past was kind of like unearthing a very crude prototype of present me, and while I feel like it’s important to have those mistakes on hand to reflect on, in this day and age of the #canceled culture, it’s hard to grow and mature when there are people out there who will constantly only see the mistakes you made rather than the decades-long character development you just went through (I didn’t drop M2M though because they are goddesses).
So if you’re like me, and you want to permanently let stuff from your Twitter past go, but you don’t want to just delete your entire history, you’re going to have to use a few Twitter tricks, but first, let’s clear up a couple of things:
Can People See What You Search on Twitter?
Thankfully, no, people cannot see what you’ve searched on Twitter. However, you can see it in your recent searches, although this only goes back a few searches. There’s no way for anyone to see your search history other than by hacking into your account and actually going through your previous searches. Jokes on them, though, all my searches are of cat videos and dick jokes.
Of course, if you’ve blocked someone from Twitter, they’re not going to see a single Tweet from you, nor can they see your profile, and sometimes, that’s ok: let go of toxic people from your timeline!
Can People See How You Voted on a Twitter Poll?
No, people won’t be able to see who voted for what on their Twitter poll. All results are kept private, and only the final results are shown. This holds true for the creator of the poll, other people who view your Twitter poll, and the people who answered it. Just like the actual elections! (*cough*)
So, How Do I Delete My Tweets?
There are a few ways to delete your Tweets without actually decimating your entire timeline. Besides, it’s always best to save some of your one-liners and just surgically remove the, shall we say, undesirable tweets you made when you were an angsty teen. Here are some ways to do just that:
Advanced Search is Your Friend in These Trying Times
Twitter’s advanced search helps you go through your timeline by searching it with various filters like dates, locations, usernames, and even full-on phrases. Just go type your Twitter username on the “From These Accounts” section of the archive function, or type in “from:” plus your handle in the basic search box.
Search and Destroy (Embarrassing Tweets via Keywords)
But if you really want to be super-duper, laser-precise about it, search your feed for specific keywords. Of course, doing this involves having to actually remember embarrassing words and phrases you may have used in your youth (remember when “totes” was a thing, or “bromance”?), but trust me, it’s worth the cringe.
Again, advanced search is your friend in this. The same operation as before, just mosey on down to your basic search box, type in “from:” plus your handle plus any of those embarrassingly outdated terms that you may have used in a Tweet.
Things I Learned: It’s Ok to Like Things, But Keep it Cool
And by cool, I mean, you don’t have to live-tweet every moment of the series finale of The Hills, especially if you only have, like, 200 followers (with most of them being meme accounts anyway). Of course, follower count shouldn’t be a factor, but really, the more followers you have, the more you’ll have to pull off a Berenstein/stain effect on people.
Listen, I get it: you love something, and you want to talk about it. Great. BUT, I bet you dollars to donuts that, if you go back to your live-tweets or fan-gushing tweets from your teen years, you’re just going to feel awkward and embarrassed. And hey, it’s normal, but if you want to grow, you’re going to have to let go of most of those tweets*.
And sure, fan-girling over The Bachelor might seem pretty cool at the time, but now that you have a couple of units of Women’s Studies under your belt, you’re now a little more aware of the show’s misogynistic and otherwise anti-feminist nature. Delete.
*Notice I said most of those tweets: you don’t have to get rid of everything, just save the highlights and delete everything else, the rest is just noise.
Things I Learned pt.2: People Change, and So Do Opinions
In 2010, and fresh off my advanced Film studies, I tweeted about appreciating The Weinstein Company’s approach to cinema and went so far as to praise Bob and Harvey Weinstein by calling them “film auteurs of the highest level”.
After the news broke out, I immediately went back to that tweet and debated about deleting it or not. I opted to purge it from my timeline, not only because it was offensive to millions of people all over the Twitterverse, but because my opinion of them had changed significantly. Were they still brilliant? Maybe, but the value of their success, at least for me, is so tainted as to be irredeemable.
And if your opinion about something changes? Hey, that’s ok, that’s also part of growth. Don’t be ashamed to delete tweets you’re no longer in agreement with: it’s not cowardice, it’s just called growing up.
Yes, you’re a grownup now. Panic.