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Let Stupid Tweets Lie

Last night, I accidentally caused the death of my favorite tweet of all time. Attention, famous accounts: scrubbing your stupid past tweets is a crime against humor.

Posted on May 1, 2012, at 10:52 a.m. ET

Last night, I was reminded of my favorite tweet of all time. I decided to share it again, as I had probably five times before. First, I tweeted:

Twitter: @jwherrman

Then a retweet:

I can't help but imagine someone at Salon (probably Glenn Greenwald) standing up in a 1950s-style newsroom and screaming, "SILENCE." When the chatter dies down and he has everyone's attention, he looks forward and emphatically pokes his desk with his finger in rhythm with his words. "Very important for Obama," he says, slowly pivoting his head like a fan, "to do him job." Everyone claps. Scene.

Of course this tweet was really just a typo in (I think) a live-tweet of a speech or TV event, but that hasn't prevented it from amassing a fanbase of sorts. Typos and Twitter mistakes that hit just the right whimsical note are responsible for some of the most treasured tweets on sites like Favstar and Topsy, where they get get passed around like rare books or porn VHSes in the 80s. Tweets like these:

Twitter: @!/danielabrams/status/53204809435709440
Twitter: @!/ChuckGrassley/status/169202371312881667 / Via Twitter: @mbyhoff
Twitter: @!/newtgingrich/statuses/21278732501131265
Twitter: @!/andersoncooper/status/128168752264118272 / Via Twitter: @posh_somme

Perfectly poetic little mistakes, all of them. Perfectly poetic and mostly harmless.

These professionally image-conscious people, to their credit, have left these tweets up. But Salon, within seconds of my latest retweet, deleted the "do him job" tweet, which had in the last year accumulated 431 retweets and 405 favorites. It was, at the time of deletion, the account's most interacted-with tweet by far.

Scrubbing your social media history is advisable if, say, you're trying to get a job and your Twitter stream is mostly crude jokes. Or if you've posted something truly embarrassing — drunk tweets or private photos if you're a regular person; a truly offensive tweet if you're an organization or celebrity.

But killing a dumb old tweet like this just makes you look humorless. Most of those hundreds of favs and retweets of the Salon tweet weren't as spiteful as they were affectionate; likewise, the tweet wasn't nearly as damaging as it was endearing. And of course it's still out there, on all the various Twitter-scraping sites.

So let's lay out some informal etiquette guidelines. Organizations and famous people: let your sleeping stupid tweets lie. In some cases they're our favorite things about you. If that's not satisfying enough to your ego, then at least know this: deleting dumb old tweets makes you a scrooge, and makes those tweets — which are funny precisely because of the perception that you take yourselves very seriously — that much funnier.


Salon just notified me of its new (real!) alternative domain name: Our beloved tweet may be forever in tweet heaven, but all's right with the world. Thank you.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.