Twitter is the social media world’s most reliable doubled-edged sword. One minute, you’re retweeting a funny meme account and enjoying some wholesome discussion around your current TV binge fixation, and the next, you’re being buried by a harassment campaign or finding your job in jeopardy over something dumb (or even harmless) you tweeted out in 2011.
The unfortunate reality of Twitter is that it is, at its most brutal, a performative minefield waiting to destroy either your career or your emotional well-being — quite often both if given enough time. However, some of us use Twitter for our livelihoods, both for networking purposes and because it remains an invaluable platform to grow and directly interface with your audience.
If you’re on Twitter, it’s a good idea to take precautions around your tweet history. That’s because finding yourself in hot water over an old tweet or a controversial one you fired off absentmindedly is practically a rite of passage on Twitter. The rulebook for punishing people for tweets 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. Meanwhile, large corporations tend to be run by online illiterates who care only about looking like they’re doing the right thing.
So if you can’t, or simply won’t, cut Twitter out of your life, the best protection you can provide yourself is the automatic deletion of your Twitter history. Here’s where to start if you’re interested in nuking your timeline and keeping future tweets from falling into the internet’s vindictive void of posterity.
Step one: Pick a service
There are many services out there designed to help you manage your Twitter history and wipe it clean. Some are free, and some charge a subscription fee. Perhaps the most popular of these services is TweetDelete, which is a free web tool that lets you both delete your Twitter history and set a timer for deletion of future tweets.
It underwent a redesign recently and now features much cleaner, up-to-date design. A one-time $9.99 premium purchase will also grant you many of the features restricted to monthly subscriptions for other Twitter-related services mentioned below. So TweetDelete is still the best option for most people.
If you’re looking for something more robust, you can use a paid service like TweetDeleter or TweetEraser. TweetDeleter costs $5.99 a month and lets you delete up to 3,000 tweets per day, on top of letting you auto-delete tweets of a certain age. The service also has an unlimited option for $8.99 a month that lets you wipe your entire history clean at once and also lets you upload your archive.
TweetEraser is similar, costing $6.99 for 30 days of access and granting users twitter archive importing, multiple account support, and ad-free use. TweetEraser is a bit more affordable, and it doesn’t charge you on a recurring basis with the understanding that you’d likely use the service only once to wipe your history. But it doesn’t appear to let users set up automatic deletion, so you’d need to continue paying for the service, like with TweetDeleter, if you want to wipe your tweet history at regular intervals.
Both paid services are nicely designed and offer perks, but TweetDelete works fine — and free — for everyday users.
Step two: Archive your tweets (if you want)
Before you settle on a service to wipe your Twitter history, you might want to consider archiving your tweets using Twitter. If you end up deciding to pay for a service like TweetDeleter or TweetEraser, you can upload that archive to store it securely. You can also just hold onto the folder, in the event you ever want to casually scroll back to that three-month period when you first signed up for Twitter and all you could think to tweet about was breakfast and the weather and earnest hashtag use.
To access your archive, head over to Twitter Settings, click on the “Your Twitter Data” tab on the left-hand column, and scroll down to “Twitter Archive.” From there, you can request your archive be sent to the email address associated with your Twitter account.
Depending on how many pointless tweets you’ve fired off into the ether over the years, that may take a long time. Eventually, you’ll get an email from Twitter asking you to download your archive. It will arrive in a .zip file, which contains a folder in which you’ll find an index.html file. Clicking that will open an easy-to-read webpage in your browser window for scrolling through your entire Twitter history.
You can, of course, choose to say sayonara to all those well-crafted and timely opinions by destroying all traces of your Twitter presence without a backup. This is, in my humble opinion, the path of least resistance and the surest way to avoid self-destruction. But to each their own.
Step three: Wipe your history
Because TweetDelete is the most popular and user-friendly of the free services — and the one I used recently — we’ll focus on how to use that one. The first hurdle that must be acknowledged is that Twitter’s application programming interface, which is the software toolkit that allows developers to access your Twitter account and tinker with it, only allows most services to mass-delete up to the most recent 3,200 tweets in a single batch for technical reasons I can’t adequately explain here.
That makes it a little tricky if you’re trying to mass-delete your history without using a paid service like TweetEraser that automates some of the annoying aspects of the process. TweetDelete used to just let you activate the delete process several times in a row to wipe more than 3,200 tweets in a single sitting, but it has since updated how the service works and you no longer can do so unless you pay for the premium version.
In its place, TweetDelete does have a nice deletion method for your most recent 3,200 tweets (and likes) and a way to automate that going forward, all for free. The first step is to decide the age limit of the tweets you’d like to delete, spanning from one week to one year or “all of my tweets” in the rare case you’ve previously wiped your history and have less than 3,200 tweets on file. The service won’t work if you have more than that and try to delete everything at once.
The other key restriction here is that if you pick a time period that exceeds the amount of time it took you to post your most recent 3,200 tweets, the service won’t work either. For instance, if you tweeted 5,000 times in the last year, but a bulk of those tweets were in the second half of the last 12 months, nothing will happen if you choose the six-month option because the max number of tweets eligible for deletion are all newer than the age limit.
I know, I know. This is obnoxious math we’d all like to avoid. But one good way around this is to undershoot and pick, say, three months or one month. You can always do it again later after you’ve cut down the total number of tweets on your account. The premium version of TweetDelete also bypasses most of these restrictions by allowing you to upload your Twitter data file, which gives the service more direct access to your account.
Here’s TweetDelete’s helpful FAQ on this subject to further explain the restrictions:
- If you pick an age limit longer than the time it takes you to post 3,200 tweets, nothing will be deleted. (The 3,200 recent tweets we can see are all newer than your limit.)
- If you have more than 3,200 tweets and ask TweetDelete to delete all of your tweets, the older ones won’t be deleted and will remain on the counter.
- If you’ve already deleted all of your recent tweets with our site or another service, trying it repeatedly won’t delete any more.
Once you’ve picked an age, you now just need to decide whether you want this process automated or not. If this is your first time deleting your tweets and you’re interested in wiping your whole archive, you’ll want to avoid automating the process so you can log back in later to choose options like deleting tweets older than six months or one year. If you’ve successfully wiped your archive clean, you can use the automated function to keep the delete process going perpetually into the future.
TweetDelete says non-premium users have to sign in at least once every six months to keep the process ongoing. So if you’re really concerned about getting rid of everything all at once, or if you want to just set a timer once and forget about it forever, it’s probably worthwhile to pay that $9.99 for the premium feature set. Again, this might seem needlessly complicated, and that’s because it is. But TweetDelete’s FAQ has a lot of the answers to the various restrictions involved. And if you don’t care much for your old tweets or have already safely downloaded your archive, you can always experiment and see what works.
Step four: relax
The next, and final, step on the list here is to breathe deep, because you’ve now put into a place a nice little safeguard against the malicious users out there who often make Twitter such an unpleasant place to be.
Thankfully, with some diligence and a clear head and one less whiskey mixed drink, you’ll never tweet a bad thing ever again. Of course, we all know that’s impossible, but recognizing that ultimate truth is what participating in Twitter is all about. Good luck and happy tweeting.
Update April 8th, 2019, 5:35PM ET: This article was originally published on July 26th, 2018, and it has been updated to reflect recent changes to tweet-deleting services.