Why (and how) my tweets now automatically archive to my Google Drive and then self-destruct after a week

I've been in a weird place with Twitter for a while now.

Around the time I recognized just how much I myself have changed in the last few years (post-undergrad existential crises are lots of fun), I started thinking about how I could solve or at least minimize this mysterious, increasingly uncomfortable feeling I had towards tweeting. 

I think this feeling was influenced by the fact that over the six years I've been using it, how Twitter functions has mostly stayed the same even though the habits of its users have evolved (although this has definitely started to change recently). Right around the time I was thinking about this, The Awl published an excellent piece on how on Twitter, time and privacy are connected, calling Twitter a "massive rolling context experiment." This inspired me to dig into ways other people have deleted their tweets in order to start with a clean slate. This isn't new ground — Kanye West did it back in 2012, ffs — but it got me thinking about self-destructing tweets, an idea related to a line of thinking I talked about in a different post about Snapchat.

Having tweets self-destruct instead of linger forever alters a unique and powerful part of the message's context: time. It's not just starting over, it's playing by a different set of rules. 

I think (and desperately hope) that having tweets self-destruct after they're posted will make Twitter better in the moment by getting rid of the feeling that old, regretful thoughts from the past are looming over your shoulder. Despite that, for some weird reason I'm also still a little attached to those old tweets and don't want to lose them all forever — that's where the archive comes in. This is an attempt to create some balance in a place that I increasingly believe lacks it.

How it works

Eventually I'd like to build a single system that will handle all of this (and even more I hope that one day Twitter lets us do this natively), but for now I'm using two tools: 

  1. This Google Doc uses a script to update my tweet archive every day
  2. TweetDelete.net automatically deletes tweets one week (or longer) after you post them
A screenshot of my activity on Twitter (as of 19 September 2015)

A screenshot of my activity on Twitter (as of 19 September 2015)

This documentation will help you set up an archive of your tweets in a Google Drive folder, as per number 1 above. By stashing your tweet archive in Google Drive, the G-Apps plugin can read and write to the JSON structure that Twitter provides when you request your tweet archive to update it every 24-hours in the same format that Twitter provides it in. Now you have a complete and constantly up-to-date archive of all the mindvomit you've ever shared with Twitter even though your tweets on Twitter dot com disappear after a week.

There's a more fully-featured application that does this and more called Tweet Deleter, but they charge $15 per month and to be honest I don't want to have to pay someone (especially a third party) to let me control my data.

Google Drive keeps the folder private by default, but if you make the folder where you stash your tweet archive public you can share your tweet archive with anyone. You can find a link to my full tweet archive at http://tyler.gold/tweet-archive

If you have feedback or just want to talk about this concept, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to tweet me @tylergold or shoot me an email.


Time is a Privacy SettingThe Awl

I Delete EverythingThe Fader

What Twitter Can Beby Chris Sacca

The Shame Eraser, BuzzFeed