Can You Bust The Ghosts Of Your Social Media Past?

There's arguably only one thing worse than doing something stupid -- and that's doing something stupid on social media.

You've probably already forgotten that old silly tweet you sent after a night of fun at the 2009 Christmas party. It's likely that you've shared countless posts since.

But the digital dragons have not forgotten, and can fire your way when you least expect it.

As we've seen play out during the federal election, there's a certain formula to the social media fall from grace that goes a little like this:

STEP ONE: Someone digs up old, offensive tweets or posts from a public figure and re-circulates them.

STEP TWO: The posts make headlines and shame the person in question. News outlets begin to pick up on the shaming.

STEP THREE: The situation snowballs and gains social media traction until someone acts.

At minimum, the public figure apologises and says they no longer hold these views.  At most, the posts destroy a career.

Can a digital footprint ever really be erased? Image: Supplied.

While you can never entirely remove yourself from the internet, for reasons ranging from one quick screen grab to the depths of online caches, there are ways to minimise your online footprint.

There are also D.I.Y options or digital cleaners you can hire to mop up the past.


It's possible to delete tweets, but with various sites and search engines indexing social media sites, it's hard for anything to truly ever disappear from the internet.

If you choose to delete your Twitter account via the Settings tab -- as far as other users can see -- your profile and tweets will vanish immediately.

Yet Twitter hangs on to your data for a grace period of 30 days and if you're a verified user, that extends to a full 12 months. The platform says this is in case you change your mind.

After that one to 12 month period ends, Twitter will officially delete your data.

READ MORE: All the Candidates Who've Been Dumped Or Resigned Over Social Media Posts


Your account can be deactivated in your settings by selecting Edit Profile. But if you would like to permanently delete your account, you will need to visit the account deletion web page.

The second option -- permanently deleting your account -- means your account cannot be restored, according to Facebook.

To do this, you have to lodge a request with the company through their help site.


Like Facebook, Instagram also allows you to either deactivate or permanently delete your account.

As the wording implies, the first option is an account deactivation and not technically a deletion.

However if you delete your account, your profile, photos, videos, comments, likes and followers will be gone for good. It’s impossible to reactivate a deleted account.

READ MORE: Your Social Media Account's Life After Death


Snapchat has a similar deletion policy to Twitter, removing all of the user’s data after 30 days.

During this waiting period, you can choose to reactivate your account. making it a pretty straightforward process.


The data that Google gathers on its users includes Gmail, Google Maps, Android devices, web searches, smart speakers and your video viewing habits.

That’s a lot of information, but Google makes it available for you to view and delete if you want to.

Earlier this month Google announced plans to release a feature that allows you to choose how long you'd like your data information to be stored.

Clean-Up Services

There are a number of third-party services that can help tidy up a person's Twitter profile and routinely delete old tweets, either for free or at the cost of a few dollars a week.

There are also several websites in which you can pay to keep your information away from data brokers.

One of the many digital clean-up services available online. Image: TweetDelete.

DeleteMe at will jump through all those monotonous deleting hoops for you and will even check back every few months to make sure your name or profile hasn't been re-added.

These paid subscription services maintain tabs on the collection and release of data. they also remove data including names, current and past addresses, dates of birth, and aliases on your behalf.

READ MORE: Bill Shorten Uses Chinese Social Media To Counter 'Asians With PhDs' Fallout

Another service, Account Killer, gives users a rating system that describes the complexity of account deletion processes provided by online services.

Perhaps a rule of thumb moving forward (to avoid the aforementioned complexities) is to never tweet anything you wouldn't want your grandma or boss to see.

Contact the author