The discovery of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s old tweets lit up Twitter over the weekend almost as much as the Nazi getting punched. From his obsession with Dippin’ Dots to his cosplay fandom, the man’s tweets are a treasure trove of self-owns.
Spicer isn’t the first person to be mocked for his bad old tweets—see conservative star Tomi Lahren’s college tweets, or the Portland police department’s appreciation for “cold steel of gun metal”—and he won’t be the last, if you follow our handy guide to digging up people’s dumbest tweets.
Your main tool will be the Twitter advanced search. It isn’t easy to get to this page from the Twitter homepage or on the app, so it’s best to bookmark the URL.
On this page, you’ll see a category for “People.” Type the username of the person whose day you’re trying to ruin in the “From these accounts” box; that limits your search to just their tweets.
From there, it’s up to you how to proceed.
For the dedicated bad tweet detective, it’s wise to set the date parameters. For example, this all-time great from Sen. Marco Rubio would have been hard to find with search terms, and otherwise would be lost to the ages:
Further down the page you’ll see a section for dates; clicking the blank box brings up the calendar, then click the month and year at the top to expand the view to the whole year, and again to navigate back to previous years.
You’ll find the best worst tweets are likely to happen between 2006 and 2013; a good starting point is to search for tweets from the person up until about 2012. Early Twitter adopters are some of the best sources for these (you can see when someone joined Twitter on their profile page). It was a simpler, much more earnest time.
A time when you could freestyle without shame.
A time when no one would judge you for asking for help.
Twitter also provides a helpful tool for finding somebody’s first tweet:
If you know what you’re looking for—say, you suspect that a Trump spokesperson might possibly have tweeted something offensive in the past—you can enter search terms or phrases under the “Words” category. To get you started, here are some suggestions:
“How do I”
Brands, particularly airlines
Puerile, childish words like “toilet,” “pee,” “cum”
Political predictions that didn’t pan out
Hint: On your results page, you’ll notice the search appears in the top search bar with all the modifiers, like “from:(username) and until:(date),” which you can change to tinker with your search without doing a whole new search.
If you don’t have a specific target in mind but want to own your friends, once you’ve done a search you can hit “more” and select “People I follow.”
Twitter user @vrunt suggests that if you find something weird, “keep mining.” As with Spicer’s Dippin’ Dots tweets, you can often identify a weird obsession, something they tweet about way too much that reveals their soul, or simply a joke/comment they feel the need to make several times:
Please remember to exercise caution and kindness when digging up Twitter dirt on your enemies. More than anything, the Twitter advanced search serves as a humbling reminder of how everyone’s tweets were mostly excruciatingly earnest and unfunny until about 2014, and that there but for the grace of God go we:
If you want to defend yourself from this treatment, there are tools that allow you to delete all your tweets, but the best defense is simple: never, under any circumstances, tweet.