The following is compiled from a bunch of Tweets that I made in December 2018. After reading you’ll see why I have to write it here! While it is not directly related with programming or making art, it does help with Getting Things Done, so I decided to include it here.
Like many people I’ve started to remove myself from a lot of social media websites. First was Facebook in 2017. The reason for this is that was really annoyed that it was using nostalgia to manipulate me into staying on the website. In shoving 10 year-old photos into my view through the On This Day feature it was giving me little hits of dopamine by reminding me of the good ol’ times, even if they were 10 years ago with people that, for whatever reason, are no longer part of my life.
One solution to this was to make sure that Facebook only had recent information about me. I started manually deleting anything that was more than 2 year old. I eventually found a Chrome plugin (use at your own risk) that made it easier to do but this process was a chore that ultimately didn’t solve the fact that Facebook was the problem. After about a year I left unannounced. After deleting my account, of course.
My “relationship” with Twitter is a bit different. I’ve always preferred it over Facebook as it isn’t as intrusive, at least not directly. It doesn’t constantly ask you to share who you’re dating, identify your family, upload photos from your night out or tag your friends in everything. Instead it felt like it was more concerned with what was happening at that moment.
Like Facebook, though, I became a bit concerned with how much data about me it was storing. I started using the website in 2008 (Facebook in 2007) and have used it almost daily since then. Over that time I have grown and changed as a person many times over. I don’t want this history to be fully documented and, more importantly, available for anyone to browse through. Whilst the majority of the 40k tweets I accumulated over that period probably consists mostly of cat gifs, memes and the word “lol”, maybe there’s there events that I’d rather not have documented, like Tweets showing friendships and relationships falling apart, embarrassing photos of myself or others on nights out, or even just me saying something that was totally out of order.
I’m glad that I have friends (and enemies) that have called me out on my bullshit and hope that they continue to point out times when I do something wrong. However, I’d rather that the trail of data I leave on these sites that I use every day reflected me as I am now, not who I was 10 or even 20 years ago.
So, I went on a mission to find a way to keep my Tweets current. I needed a tool, or tools, that would automatically delete Tweets older than a certain time period.
A lot has been written about Tweetdelete. However, I don’t want to rely on a third party service. Many people do trust the service, but there’s always risks in using third party services, especially when they have access to a lot of your information. Then there’s the risk that it could one day shut down so I decided that I wanted something that I could deploy myself.
Deploying your own script requires that you register a developer account on Twitter.
Delete tweets is a Python script that let’s you delete tweets and specify a cut off date. However, to run it you need to download your Twitter archive. At the time of writing this can only be done once a month and has to be done manually. So, you could automate the running of the script but there’s still manual intervention required.
This Python script is similar but it lets you specify cutoff date as a number of days, not dates. Still, it requires downloading your Twitter archive manually.
This Ruby script works perfectly! You specify cutoff point in days and then when it is run it deletes any tweets older than that cutoff point. It even has the option to put in the ID of Tweets that you want to save. It only requires a developer account and you don’t need to download your archive.
There’s even a companion script that removes Likes. This doesn’t have any options for date cutoff but in my case it doesn’t matter. Once I’ve liked something once it doesn’t mean that I like it (or anything else that person has posted) forever so I’m not sure why I need to have my likes recorded and archived.
I decided to install both scripts on an always-on Raspberry Pi. Installing them took a bit of time due to it needing to install a bunch of Ruby gems. Once it was installed I set up a cron job to run the script at regular intervals. I have mine set to twice a day and to only keep the last two weeks of tweets. I feel that that is enough time for the tweets/memes to have whatever impact that they’re going to have. After two weeks they’re gone.
All of this effort to manage my experience of using Twitter might not be a solution and instead might be more of a distraction from the fact that the problem is Twitter, and maybe even social media in general. There have been many efforts from individuals to make social media better. On Facebook there is F.B. Purity which helps remove things like adverts, the On This Day feature and other things.
One of my favourite tools that I still use is the Facebook and Twitter Demetricator from Ben Grosser. These desktop-only tools remove mentions of the number of Likes, replies and retweets a post gets so that you can focus on the
cat memes important things. These plugins have been getting a lot of attention recently. See Ben’s Instagram for more.
This of course doesn’t solve social media’s problems but just makes my experience of it just that little bit less stressful.