This may be hard to imagine, but I, a now hilarious 24-year-old with impressive self-control and impeccable taste in movies, music, and celebrity crushes, have not always crafted the best tweets.
Sure, my Twitter fingers are professionally trained at this point. But when I first made my debut in 2011, I was an angsty 18-year-old, obsessed with One Tree Hill, listening to Dashboard Confessional on a loop, and tragically venting about freshman year of college.
I’ve grown a lot since then. And the sophisticated professional I am today decided it was time to venture back into my Twitter history and clean up my online image.
On this utterly mortifying experience down memory lane, I managed to successfully locate and delete a few embarrassing rants, some ice-cold takes, and several horribly nerdy hashtags I now regret. For all my future Twitter stalkers will know, I’ve always been this cool!
Revisiting past tweets revealed some harsh truths about my social media usage: In my younger years I tweeted too often and way too freely. I utilized very little self-control when deciding which parts of my life to share. Post-cleanup, I feel much better about my online presence. If you’re in any doubt about your online past, I highly suggest you search your own Twitter archive and do the same.
Say hello to advanced search
There’s one friend you can count on during this dreaded path to online self-improvement: Twitter’s very own advanced search tool.
The feature gives people a simple way to search their own tweets and filter by keywords, phrases, usernames, locations, and dates. To search your Twitter archive, simply type your handle in the “From these accounts” section. (You can also search “from:” in Twitter’s basic search box followed by a handle to get the same results.)
Identify and delete by keyword
To kick off your Twitter cleanse, why not start by searching your account for problematic keywords? You might find tweets with words like “guilty pleasure,” “hate,” and “drunk” worth manually deleting, but everyone’s account is different, so search for the words that pertain to you.
I’m sure my mom would be pleased to know I have zero incriminating tweets about being drunk. (I regret to inform her that over the years I’ve tweeted my fair share of other embarrassing content.)
TIP: All good things in moderation
There’s no shame in loving something, but there’s a little shame in loving something that’s not that great and then tweeting about it nearly 100 times.
Let’s take my live-tweeting of the Bachelor franchise season after season. I am now mortified by my “#emotionalgirlproblems” tweets and would like to pretend they never happened. Easy! Just delete.
Or, growing up, One Tree Hill was my favorite television show. I worshiped the actors, reveled in the ridiculously dramatic plot lines that now make me laugh out loud, and thought nothing would ever come close to touching my soul so deeply. Is that still true today? NOPE.
It’s a solid teen drama, but I definitely do not need more than 60 tweets proclaiming my love of One Tree Hill floating out there on the internet. Do I want to be known as a girl who passionately argued that Paul Johansson should have won an Academy Award for his performance? Or that it is the BEST show on all of television? LOL no. Delete.
TIP: News breaks and opinions change
Speaking of One Tree Hill, I loved the show so much that I once tweeted that the creator, Mark Schwahn, was “literally a genius.” I genuinely felt this way in 2012. More recently, Schwahn was accused of sexual harassment by over a dozen women.
This tweet is no longer praise I want out in the world alongside my name. Deleting it felt truly therapeutic.
Search accounts you’ve mentioned
Keywords aren’t the only way to search the site. You can also view tweets in which you’ve mentioned specific accounts by inputting the associated handles.
By typing in the handle of Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte — one of my most regretted celebrity crushes — I uncovered this tweet that I wish to immediately scrub from the face of the Earth.
Do I want really want some misguided 18-year-old’s comments about adoring a man for having 150 pairs of sneakers in his closet to live perpetually online? A man who has since lied about being robbed at gunpoint? It hurts just to look at it. Delete.
Filter by dates
Perhaps you know of a time in life when you were not your best Twitter self. For me, that was October and November 2011 — when my freshman year roommate and I were not the ~most~ compatible.
(Note: My freshman roommate and I are now friends and have left our differences in 2011.)
To search a specific period of time on Twitter, simply input a desired date range — which can span from days to months or years — into the advanced search bar.
Though Twitter doesn’t currently allow users to delete tweets in bulk, you can use third-party services like tweetdeleter.com, TweetDelete, or Twitter Archive Eraser to remove up to thousands of tweets at a time. There’s also a mobile app called that can do the trick.
Going beyond the archive
If you want to take a truly in-depth look at your past tweets you (brave soul) might consider requesting your full Twitter archive.
Simply go to the Settings section of your account and scroll to the bottom of the page. The file, which will be emailed to you, will include your Twitter history starting from your very first tweet.
If you’re looking to scour your account beyond the archive, Snapbird is for you. The site allows you to search your direct messages and tweets you’ve favorited.
Why you should care about ghosts of tweets past ?
You might assume your Twitter past will remain in the past — and it probably will. But just as you can search your own archive, you could search anyone’s tweets simply by plugging their handle into the advanced search bar. That means anyone could have access to your tweets with a simple search, too.
While it’s not often people spend their free time past-Twitter-stalking others, we all know it happens.
For instance, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s tweets came back to haunt him when he took over for Jon Stewart in 2015. Sexist and racist tweets resurfaced from Lee Garrett, a contestant on Season 13 of The Bachelorette, when Rachel Lindsay was notably cast as the first black Bachelorette.
In the world of politics, Kellyanne Conway most definitely regretted that tweet about Hillary being under FBI Investigation. And we imagine it would have been far less awkward if former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci had deleted his tweets about hating Donald Trump before joining the man’s administration.
We can’t even count the number of times Trump must wish he had someone clean up his Twitter account prior to becoming president.
TIP: Consider starting fresh
As you search through your tweets, there’s a chance you’ll decide your account is beyond saving and it’s time to start fresh. Go for it.
You can use one of the third-party services listed above to wipe your history, or to create an entirely new account. The process is a learning experience, and there’s something seriously cathartic about tidying up an archive of your past thoughts.
Godspeed, embarrassing tweeters. In the future, think twice before you publish those powerful 280-character blurbs.