Ed note: This tutorial is for Mac users, and assumes a llliiiittttle bit of comfort with the Terminal. Use at your own risk — it might be worth running through the steps on a dummy account first, if you're nervous. Send any bugs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now that Twitter has made it easy to download our entire tweet archives, the Internet is now faced with the scary reality that the dumbest things we've ever said are only a few clicks away. Our early tweets were sent from a time of innocence, joy, and freedom from the realization that one day other people (and we ourselves) might pass judgement on them.
But the time of reckoning has come. And if you're unable to bear the weight of your shame, this is your way out. Perhaps you had a particularly dark period after a break-up. Maybe your first six months on Twitter were just bad haikus. If you're the type of person who rips up your old shitty poems, this script is for you.
Important: this should be obvious, but to be sure there is no undo for this script. If you haven't seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you might want to watch it first. Weigh your options carefully before erasing your past. (You will, of course, still have your local archive after deleting the public tweets.)
Set Up A Twitter App
First, you'll have to set up a Twitter app on the developer portal and generate an OAuth key.
2. Go to the "Settings" tab for your app, scroll down, and change "Application Type" to "Read and Write", then click "Update this Twitter application's settings".
3. Go to the "Details" tab, scroll down, and click "Create my access token" (or "Recreate my access token" if you already created one). When you refresh, you should see "Access Level: Read and Write" after your access token and secret.
Download Shame Eraser from Github
Download this archive and unzip it.
Delete Your Old Tweets
Download your tweet archive and unzip it. Next, you'll have to run some things on the command line. Open the Terminal (just type "Terminal" into Spotlight), copy and paste this into the tab that opens up, and hit Enter:
cd ~/Downloads/shame-eraser-master && sudo gem install bundler && bundle install && open lib
Note: if you changed your default downloads folder, you'll need to change "~/Downloads" to the path to your downloads folder. You can get this by dragging the folder onto Terminal.
Now copy your consumer key, consumer secret, access token, and access token secret (ed: you can find all these on your new Twitter app's page) into lib/config.rb (which you can open with Textedit), save it, and then copy and paste this line without pressing Enter:
bundle exec ruby bin/erase.rb
And this is important: make sure there's a space at the end.
Now drag your tweets folder onto Terminal and it should auto-complete the path to the folder. (ed note: there needs to be a space before the file path, so this will end up looking like this: shame-eraser-master johnherman$ bundle exec ruby bin/erase.rb /Users/johnherman/Downloads/tweets)
Now hit Enter, and follow the instructions. (ed note: Dates can be entered in many formats, but this syntax is probably easiest: June 1st 2009. In any case, the script will ask you to confirm your date input before you proceed.
Good luck, and enjoy your new shame-free life on Twitter.
Here's FWD Editor Matt Buchanan deleting his first 8000 tweets:
If you're feeling the opposite compulsion, here's a tool to share your Tweet archives.