I have been on Twitter almost twelve years, so even to me it’s a bit surprising that I’m admonishing people to delete their Twitter history. I wrote this post to explain why I deleted mine, and why you should delete yours too.
Twitter in the old days
I signed up for Twitter in 2007, just when I was starting to blog professionally. It was also the beginning of my journey to convince EMC to use social media, and becoming a community builder (similar to what is now known as a developer advocate, except I worked with enterprise ops folks instead of developers). Twitter was a way to connect with other like-minded people. We tried out every app that came along to enhance Twitter’s experience: FourSquare so we would know where people were so we could go grab a coffee or a beer with them, tweetvite to create meetups at conferences, flickr to share pictures.
Twitter had an amazing way of connecting people. You could follow conversations from industry icons. The conversations weren’t always cordial, in fact we used to call the blow-ups among the enterprise influencers “twit pisses”. In most cases, a phone call would result in a truce, if not deeper understanding (although if I’m being honest, some relationships were severed beyond repair). For the most part, our community fought hard to encourage people to remain transparent and open. We expected to learn more about our industry by disagreeing with each other, and worked at building a framework to support that ideal.
But everything changes, doesn’t it?
PR and Corporate Marketing embrace social media
Social media tools evolved, and it became very easy to upload images and other content. This made it easy for anyone to participate in social media, where before you needed to know your way around web tools to post pictures and videos, even to blog. This opened the door for non-technical staff to participate in social media as well.
I believe that PR and Corporate Marketing embraced social media not only because the technical barriers had been eliminated, but also because they now had a tool in their arsenal to specifically target audience segments. It’s harder to quantify how relationships built and nurtured on Twitter have an impact on the bottom line, but it’s pretty easy to measure the amount of many interactions with a tweet about your brand. PR and Marketing were finally able to “prove” their tactics were reaching the intended audiences.
We went from a time where people could just talk to other people about any topic to a time where brands established specific rules of engagement. A rush of tools were developed to help brands quantify and qualify their social media effort. Companies like Hubspot templatized social media content creation, and in effectively stripped this content of any real meaning. Facebook’s Graph turned people and their social connections into objects that marketing teams could use to precisely target prospects.
And marketing and PR professionals were not the only ones who embraced the power of these tools.
Social media as a weapon: a primary reason to delete your Twitter history
Social media is being used as a weapon by most nations. I state this knowing it is a fact, but also knowing how it makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist. It is a fact that Russia used social media to impact the US 2016 elections, specifically my home state of Florida. Cambridge Analytica used the graph as well to target and influence voting habits of black women in my hometown.
Russia is known to have used bots to sow discord on social media. Looking back, I know there is a period of time when I was targeted by those bots. I was very vocal in my support of the camps at Standing Rock that opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline. These bots would dive deep into my past Twitter timeline, and finding older tweets to take umbrage with (mostly out of context), but I just blocked and reported them. I figured it was an orchestrated pro-pipeline group trying to cause trouble. I know now it was most likely Russian bots.
Around the same time I did a very normal thing based on how I’d always used Twitter – I challenged someone in our community about a tweet that supported the Muslim ban. I retweeted and asked – “who the f are these people”? It was a tweet made in the passion of the moment. I just couldn’t believe I was in the same community as someone who would support something so vile – something that literally impacted people I have come to love and consider family. This community member not only @’d my former employer, asking “is this how your employees talk to customers?”, he also looked up my boss on LinkedIn and asked him the same question.
I knew then that Twitter had changed forever from the open, connective platform I had fallen in love with all those years ago. Now, being open doesn’t lead to interactions that build community, but instead leave you open to attack from people who don’t like what you have to say.
Delete your Twitter history
Twitter is no longer an open space where you can have hard, controversial conversations. Because political bots use the same tools PR and corporate marketing use to target potential customers for campaigns, you can no longer be completely authentic. These disruptive forces use the same campaign building tactics to sow discord in country, the opposite of how the platform is marketed.
The only people who care about your authentic past are those who want to shame you, silence you, or use your words to start create conflict. I went through several job changes, a marriage, a divorce, 2 boyfriends (and breakups), and the death of my father in the last twelve years. I guarantee you that some of my tweets were wine-fueled. And I apologize to any of you who were on the receiving end of any of that angst.
The only ones who will care about those posts are those who wish me ill. Twitter is now relegated to a real-time platform. No one misses you if you aren’t tweeting – it is all stream of consciousness. This is why you must delete your Twitter history, and then continue to cull it.
I used TweetDeleter to delete my tweets. I’ll only keep 2 months of tweets going forward. I’m not sure what will take Twitter’s former place for me, maybe real life? I just know Twitter cannot be used like we used it in the beginning, it is too dangerous.
Please y’all. Delete your Twitter history now.