As I got to Page 40 of Lon Safko’s ‘The Social Media Bible‘ I was instantly concerned when Lon didn’t address the importance of curating one’s feed (and making sure old tweets that don’t reflect current opinion are no longer available publicly). Bear it mind that it was the 2012 version, and it would be two years before Justine Sacco tweets her MA joke, and six years before the resurfacing of James Gunn’s old tweets that resulting him in losing the director’s chair for the third ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ instalment.

This doesn’t mean that deleting your old content would automatically save you from getting it unearthed later (once it’s out there…it’s out there). It’s just like regularly updating your site, to ensure the landing page is focused on where you are spending most of your time.

“Tweets have a life span of about 24 hours before they are forgotten.”

Lon Safko (The Social Media Bible)

If you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, the good news with Justine is that she was able to return under the same company (though under a different brand) after four years.

Here are some exercises you can use to clean up your feeds:

1.) Keeping your tweets under 2,500

I’ve noticed that Twitter continually increases the number of tweets that can be displayed (now it’s 3,200). The downside of deleting tweets is you’ll lose the link to responses.

If you can’t fathom being able to scroll through more than 1,000 tweets (or if you think your device will freeze up by the time you get to 1,200) you can write posts that link to each and every one of them (like a tweet glossary). It’ll probably take you significant time, but at least you can have a secondary search (aside from the Twitter search bar).

2.) Deleting feeds that you don’t need

Have an old site that you no longer update? If you can render it inactive, it would save you time. But if you still would like to get your readers to find you there, don’t forget to link to the ones that you update often.

3.) Setting six monthly reminders

Unfortunately, not all platforms allow you to delete your content. So if you are posting on sites similar to Reddit (which has an automatic ‘archive’ for threads and comments older than six months), you might only be able to dissociate your thread (or comment) from your handle. The big risk is: depending on the content…it still could be traceable to you.

In the end, we can’t control how the public would receive our content, and might not have a chance to change their minds. If we do get a chance to apologise, it’s one thing to be apologising to a group (via social media or through a press representative) rather than an individual. The key is to address the apology to your true fans.

Take what happened to Curtis Carroll when he committed a violent crime which resulted in a life sentence: like James and Justine, he intentionally chose a better path for himself by making different choices. Curtis’ contributions to society not only benefits those who are behind bars, he also has provided value to law abiding ones (as recognised by his compelling TED talk).

So, whether your clutter comes back to haunt you, the only question you would need to answer is: Are you still willing to go forward no matter the difficulty?


What’s your rule of thumb on decluttering of your publicly available content? I look forward to your thoughts via Twitter!

For more content click here for my other pieces and here for previous entries from the Music Discovery Project.

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Note: For the source of Hans’s photo, head to this page.