How to Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts Without Deleting Them

Illustration for article titled How to Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts Without Deleting Them
Photo: Chandan Khanna (Getty Images)

There are many reasons to avoid wanting a social media digital paper trail of your entire life. Maybe there are posts there you think your new employer won’t like, or that your new partner’s parents won’t like, or even ones that you don’t believe in anymore. But wiping the slate clean and starting again is only one of your options—you can still tidy up your existing accounts without deleting them.

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Take a glance back at your social media missives from last year, or five years ago, or 10 years ago, to see some reasons why you might want to cut certain posts from the record. Bad takes, painful memories, embarrassing moments...if Snapchat has taught us anything, it’s perhaps that social media should never have been a permanent, fixed record of our thoughts and actions in the first place.

If you’re ready to let the past die, Kylo Ren-style—or at least have it lightly edited—then these are your options on three of the biggest social networks.

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Twitter

Twitter offers many more options for history deleters than Instagram or Facebook, because it’s more open to third-party apps and developers. That means those apps and developers can create tools to delete old tweets.

A whole host of services will let you wipe your Twitter record, but you might want to download your tweet history beforehand, just for your own benefit. From the settings page on the web, click Your Twitter data and then Download an archive of your data. Follow the instructions to get your tweets saved to your computer.

So long and thanks for all the tweets.
So long and thanks for all the tweets.
Screenshot: Twitter
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When it comes to deleting old tweets, you can do it manually if you want: Pick through the posts on your profile, then click the little arrow next to one and choose Delete to remove it from existence. It never happened. Don’t forget to sift through your replies as well though (click Tweets & replies to see them). On mobile, you’ll see the same arrow icon next to each of your tweets, which will let you delete any that you’re not so fond of any more.

If you tweet a lot or you’ve been tweeting for a long time, then something like TweetDelete might suit you better. It lets you quickly wipe tweets older than a certain date (three months ago, six months ago, and so on), or based on a certain keyword. If you sign up for the premium tier (a single $15 payment), you can delete all of your tweets in one go, and set up more automated tasks.

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Tweet Deleter is similar but offers even more control over which tweets get deleted: You’re able to search through particular date ranges, or find particular types of posts (such as those with images attached). Here the free tier is more restrictive though—you can only delete five tweets a day if you’re not paying, for example. With Tweet Deleter, a premium account will set you back €10 a month, which is roughly $12, though you can cancel your subscription whenever you like.

Quickly clear out your older tweets.
Quickly clear out your older tweets.
Screenshot: TweetDelete
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It’s worth noting that Twitter limits third-party app access to your most recent 3,200 tweets. If you need to go back further than that, a workaround is required—in the case of TweetDelete and Tweet Deleter, they can use a downloaded copy of your Twitter archive to find and remove everything you’ve ever tweeted.

Jumbo for Android and iOS is worth mentioning, too. Among a suite of privacy features, Jumbo can delete your tweets in a similar way to TweetDelete and Tweet Deleter—again, once you’ve connected your account, you can erase tweets older than a certain number of months (they’re also saved to your phone so you still have an archive).

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Facebook

Before you start erasing your Facebook history, you might want to save everything you’ve ever committed to the social network, just for old time’s sake. If you go to your Facebook settings page on the web, then click Your Facebook information, you’ll see the Download your information option in the list.

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Facebook doesn’t allow third-party apps access to your posts the same way that Twitter does, but it does have a bulk deletion tool of its own that you can take advantage of. On the web, click your avatar (top right) to go to your profile, then select Manage posts. The next screen shows both your own posts and the posts you’ve been tagged in.

Removing old posts is easier than ever on Facebook.
Removing old posts is easier than ever on Facebook.
Screenshot: Facebook
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You might need to use the Filters button to narrow down what’s on screen—you can use it to jump to a particular year, for example. It’s then a question of selecting the posts you want to get rid of and clicking Next. The final screen lets you hide posts (if they were made by others), delete posts (if they were made by you), or remove tags that link to you (in other people’s posts).

If you’re using Facebook on a phone then the process is very similar—tap your avatar (top left), then the three dots (on the right), then Manage posts. You’re then at the same screen as you can find on the desktop, so you can filter out particular types of posts, hide posts, delete posts, and remove tags.

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You can even undo your likes on Facebook if you think maybe you’ve revealed a little bit too much (or just hit the wrong reaction emoji). In a desktop web browser or on the mobile app, open up your profile page, tap the button labeled with three dots, then choose Activity log to see what you’ve been up to on Facebook (and edit it if necessary).

Jumbo does an efficient job of removing old posts.
Jumbo does an efficient job of removing old posts.
Screenshot: Jumbo
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We haven’t come across many trustworthy third-party bulk delete tools for Facebook (if you know of any, please drop a comment below)—perhaps because Facebook restricts access to outside apps and limits exactly what they can do with your posts. At the moment Facebook’s own tools are the best way to get the job done.

That said, Jumbo for Android and iOS (which we’ve already mentioned above) can take a look at your Facebook account for you. As on Twitter, you can delete posts that are a certain number of months old, and again these posts will be saved to your phone inside the Jumbo app if you ever want to look back and reminisce.

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Instagram

Unfortunately, the options for bulk-deleting Instagram posts are more limited than they are on Twitter and Instagram—it’s almost as if the app doesn’t want you to remove content. Downloading your archive before you start messing with it is easy enough, though: Log into Instagram on the web, then click your avatar, Settings, Privacy and Security, and finally Request Download.

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When it comes to deleting posts, you need to do this through the mobile apps: Tap the profile icon (bottom right) to see your posts, then tap on any picture or video to bring it up, then tap the three dots (top right). You can Delete the post (erase it completely) or Archive it (hide it from everyone but you, complete with its likes and comments).

Deleting Instagrams is easy.
Deleting Instagrams is easy.
Screenshot: Instagram
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Comments are also pretty easy to remove on Instagram. Swipe left on any comment then tap on the trash can icon to strike it from the record—you can delete any comments underneath your own photos and videos, and delete your own comments on posts made by other people.

While easy, non-hacky ways of bulk-deleting Instagram posts are thin on the ground, Jumbo for Android and iOS once again steps up—though in this case it’s a paid-for feature. Whatever Jumbo is doing to get advanced access to your post history on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, it’s working (though third-party access can always be revoked or limited at any time).

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Your options are the same as they are for Twitter and Facebook: You tell Jumbo that you want to delete Instagram posts older than a certain number of months (the scale goes from 1 all the way up to 72, or six years), then Jumbo deletes them and makes copies that are saved on your phone.

Jumbo will save posts locally before deleting.
Jumbo will save posts locally before deleting.
Screenshot: Jumbo
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Jumbo has put a pay-what-you-want policy in place, though certain features aren’t available if you don’t pay at all. For the time being, at least, it certainly looks like the best option for cleaning up your social media posts across multiple accounts once they reach a certain age, though you need to subscribe to get the most of it. If you only want a month’s worth of tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram posts on record, then it’s an option well worth considering.

There is the option of Stories on Instagram (and Facebook), of course, a Snapchat idea so good that everyone else just copied it—these 24-hour-long bursts of content don’t stick around, which means there’s no need to clean up your social media profiles afterwards. There’s nothing to stop your friends from screenshotting them, but otherwise your public-facing social media history is relatively safe with Stories.

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DISCUSSION

“Cleaning up” your accounts without deleting them is exactly like how Calvin “cleans up” his room:

Nothing is ever deleted. You just don’t have access to it any more.