Recently I deleted all my tweets, and will likely continue doing that – deleting them yearly around late January. There are a few reasons I [think I] want to [continue to] do this. I figured I might enumerate them.
I think the most recognizable reason for wanting to do this goes something like “So… you said a bunch of problematic stuff in the past, huh?”
I didn’t, it turns out. I don’t say this in attempt to garner praise. In fact I’m a bit surprised by how anodyne my tweet history is, having now reviewed it on the eve of its deletion. It’s not that I used to be a racist shithead and I’m shocked that none of that made its way on my twitter. More like: I’m surprised that there is relatively little which sounded innocuous ten years ago, but which upon contemporary inspection betrays some unquestioned principles, assumptions, biases. I don’t think this is because I was way ahead of my time, some perfectly prescient woke-Kreskin. I think this is because for the first five years I used twitter, I tweeted song lyrics and the cryptic, meaningless, self-indulgent bullshit a self-identified “artist” in their early 20s around 2008 would tweet.
For those second five years – both in general and related to a YouTube show I used to write and host – I have tweeted many times about what I believe, about my political stances, my understanding of the world, and so on. Sometimes this has been in direct response to people I disagree with (@ing them, linking their YouTube videos, etc) and sometimes it has been in response to a particular Cultural Moment. That moment is sometimes centered in the tweet, and sometimes not (as the context would have been clear at the time).
It’s these factors – a perfect document of my political positions, set within an often evaporated context – that make me question the utility in letting the entire history of my tweets persist, especially as I get older and move through various phases of my life and my career. That and Angry Internet Men, over the last few months, have dug up some tweet or another from 2013 and crowded my mentions about the amount of soy in my diet, &c. I aint about that life. I got stuff to do, and don’t want to have a vigilant stance about going private.
It is not that I wish to rid myself of the ~inconvenience~ of having ~opinions~ but that I do not wish to re-litigate subject matter from 2012. But in many cases the persistent document of Twitter allows for points to remain open. The always-there reply button means a conversation is never settled – unless, of course, it is removed.
I am not running away from my past (as I think is sometimes the charge when someone boots their twoots). My principles have not radically altered in the last ~10 years. The core tenets are the same, I think: consider others, believe what they tell you, think with compassion and openness but without tolerance for hatefulness. But I have changed a lot, and how I communicate about and put into action those principles has changed. A persistent document of 40,000 (yikes) tweets cataloging my intentions and viewpoints literally up to the minute feels as though it ties me to some incorrectly stable version of myself, a weird and impossible amalgam of past and present. I don’t trust that document in the hands of the public or – honestly – an increasing number of governments. A public, persistent, and fixed catalog of one’s moment-to-moment outlook is a very unique document – and one we don’t yet have a widespread norm in interpreting.
I do not intend to use twitter differently from this point forward (except for the deleting) but I do feel, in the presence of that document, like I must account for it. Like I have to balance who I am with the context of who I was (even if I do not do that accounting, it feels as though I should). Because that context is always there for people to see, if they desire to go digging, I feel the need to be ahead of it (again, even if I am not – in fact – ahead of it). But the truth is: I don’t need to do either of these things. I am a person, and people change and grow. But it has felt increasingly like that change can be stymied by the public diary of twitter.
There are only a few reasons I can think to keep all my tweets, and keep them public:
- A record of my past.
I have this record. It is simply private. A non-issue.
- Broken links / empty embeds where my tweets were shared or linked-to elsewhere.
Perhaps this should bother me more, but it doesn’t. If anything, the thought that tweets of mine from 2009 are embedded somewhere is more of a reason to axe them.
- A public and persistent catalog of the work I have done.
This is the best reason I can imagine to keep my tweets. Every piece of work I have done as an adult is capable of being found via the twitter search – and in some ways: easier than via Google. But if I’m being honest: I feel about that work the same way I feel a bout my tweets. I am ready to move beyond it. Whatever about that work is important, I will try to catalog outside of twitter, and to the degree that is impossible: that work is perhaps not meant to persist.
There is more to be said about the utility in exercising control over ones public presence, and the profit / value said presence generates for others, and in managing how and why you are an asset to the media corporations you interact with (I would be lying if I said no small part of this is a very minor Get Fucked to Twitter) – but I think my perspective on this will develop over time, as / if I continually, regularly delete all of my tweets. So for now, we’ll leave it here.
If you are interested, I used semiphemeral to delete my tweets (and excluded zero tweets from deletion).