How to delete your old tweets and Facebook posts

Many celebrities have recently come under fire for old social media posts. 

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Listen pal, I know you’re an angel. It is, and always will be, the case that you’re a perfect person, who was placed on this earth with a perfectly formed moral code. If they did wokest baby competitions, instead of focusing on that sexist bonny crap, you’d have won. You’ve never said, done, or even thought anything bad, and you’ve never even used a word that was later subject to semantic drift, because deep down you always knew it would come to be seen as offensive.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, here’s how to delete all your definitely-not-offensive or even-slightly-stupid old Facebook and Twitter posts from when you were a kid. Remember, we’re all innocent until proven guilty.

Facebook

How to delete some of your old Facebook posts

Think of a list of the most offensive words you can, including words and slurs that unfortunately used to be more commonly used as pejoratives among idiotic-school-children-who-were-definitely-not-you-never-you (think “chav”, “slut”, and “retard”). You may not remember if you or your friends wrote anything terrible (even in a poor attempt at humour), but the search bar may reveal that it was once more common than you recall.

Go to your Facebook Activity Log by going to your profile and clicking “View Activity Log” on the right hand side of your Cover Photo. Once you’ve clicked, you’ll see an “Activity Search” box on the top right. Use that to search for any offensive words you definitely didn’t ever use, but that some evil person may have posted on your Facebook page when you were somewhere else.

Also try embarrassing words and sentiments, as in the early days of Facebook there was no Messenger, meaning people often posted personal thoughts publicly on their Friend’s walls – think things like “wasted”, “drunk”, “break up”, etc. “Frape” a portmanteau of “Facebook” and “rape” used to be a common word to describe the act of someone else hijacking your Facebook – it’s a phrase that is now considered insensitive and offensive, so it might be a good idea to search for that too.

Next, go to your Facebook Settings and go to the Privacy subsection. Under “Who can see my stuff?” scroll down to the option “Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?”. By choosing the option to “Limit The Audience For Old Posts On Your Timeline”, all of your historic posts will become more private. It’s also a good idea to change the rest of your privacy settings to ensure only friends can see your posts (you might want to clean up your Friends list at the same time).

You can also change the privacy of photos or photo albums you’ve uploaded. Click on a photo or album and then click the little people symbol next to the date it was uploaded. By choosing the “Only Me” option under “Who should see this?” you can keep any old, embarrassing photos that you don’t want to lose but also don’t want anyone else to see.

If there is a friend who you know you were particularly idiotic with as a youth, you can go to their profile and click the ellipses at the bottom right of their Cover photo. Choose “See Friendship” and it will show everything you ever posted on each other’s walls. You can scroll back and delete anything particularly dumb or embarrassing that you typed in the past.

How to delete all of your old Facebook posts

If you were a particularly stupid or embarrassing adolescent, you can just do a mass clean-up of everything you’ve ever said on the social network. Aside from deleting your whole profile (honestly, do it), you can use third party scripts or plug-ins to wipe everything you (I mean, the person who hacked you and cruelly made it look like you were born less than perfect) ever wrote on the site.

Some options are Social Book Post Manager, Absterge, and Facebook Timeline Cleaner (though users have had mixed-success).

Twitter

How to delete some of your old Twitter posts

Much like Facebook, it’s very easy to search for particular words or phrases you might have said. Simply go to the search bar on the top right, and type in your handle (@lucy222 for example) followed by any words/phrases you want to check for.

You can also download your Twitter archive, a list of everything you’ve ever written on the site, and read through that to find anything you might want to delete. Simply go to your Settings, then Account, then scroll down and click “Request your archive”.

In addition or instead of this, you can delete all posts before a certain or set date (say, for example, everything you wrote before 2015). Some sites that will let you do this include Tweetdelete.net, Tweetdeleter.com, and Tweeteraser.com.

How to delete all of your old Twitter posts

If you want to delete everything you’ve ever posted on Twitter, you can delete your account – but remember, the data is only fully gone after 30 days.

If you want to delete everything you’ve ever posted BUT keep your account, you can use Twitwipe – or use the services outlined in the previous section, but do it incrementally (most can only delete a few thousand tweets at once).


Finally, a word on the tone of this piece:

Many articles similar to this like to disguise their intention by saying here’s how to delete “embarrassing” posts, or how to delete your “data”. This is valid, but it is also not wrong to admit that you’ve changed and grown as a person, and that as a teenager you may have used words more carelessly and thoughtlessly than you do now. Historically, no one has been held to the standards of things their 13-year-old self said (even politicians are only judged for their college days), and millennials and today’s children shouldn’t be held to this standard just because they grew up in the digital age.

Deleting is an act that shows you are aware of how much you’ve grown and changed, that you’ve improved and learnt from your ignorance. We should all be ready to accept criticisms for our past selves, and it is not wrong for anyone to criticise you for what you posted – but it is also not wrong to reflect on your past self privately, using the techniques described above. 

Amelia Tait is a freelance journalist, and was previously the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer. She tweets at @ameliargh