Social networks are a great way to stay connected to friends, family, current events, and everything else. But that doesn’t mean you should leave all of your stuff on this big ol’ internet for everyone to see until the end of time. Nay, you should regularly archive your old posts. Let’s talk about it.
Now, you might already be saying to yourself, “But Cam, that sounds tedious and awful, and I hate you for even suggesting it!” And yeah, it can be tedious and awful … if you do it manually. But fret not, friends, because once we get through discussing why you might want to do this, we’ll also talk about how you can do it (the easy way).
Update, 10/19/22: Checked content for accuracy, product availability, and dead links.
Think about all the things you post on social media, be that Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok. or all of the above. Pictures of your kids? Grandkids? How about birthday posts or birthday wishes on your wall from other users? Pictures of your new car. Your new house. Your newly remodeled house. Family vacation.
Your whole life.
People post a lot of info on social networks, and while each post may seem minor, the longer you’re on a network, the more info that can be gleaned about you. Just think about it: Social media is basically an identity theft care package. Given enough time and attention, anyone could learn almost anything they want about you—especially if you post things without really thinking about it.
And it’s so easy to do. “It’s just my friends and family!” I can hear you say. And maybe that’s true. But what about the sites, apps, or services where you log in with your Facebook or Twitter credentials? There are thousands of these out there, and too often, I’ve seen these apps or services change hands and go rogue. And guess what? Now some potentially malicious service that you stopped using four years ago has access to all of your information.
I shudder at the thought. And that doesn’t even begin to cover potential predators who could be watching your social activities or scouring through old posts to learn your habits. Of course, no one ever thinks stuff like this could happen to them—until it does, anyway.
If your profile is public, you make all your data easily accessible to everyone, but this is still an issue on private profiles. Quick, go look at things you shared five or ten years ago, then think about how many new “friends” or followers you’ve made since then. Once you open your private profile to a new person, even your old posts are accessible.
What if you automatically archive or delete posts older than six months or a year? Suddenly, you have a lot less data just floating around out there in internetland. A lot less info on who you are, the details of your life, and your habits.
Bad actors aren’t the only thing you need to worry about, either—you also have to worry about who you used to be. I’ve seen reports of people getting fired for things they tweeted years ago, regardless of whether or not they were controversial topics at the time.
For example, let’s say you posted about how much you like or appreciate a certain actor or athlete five or six years ago. Then bad news comes out about that particular person that shows they are not who everyone once thought. Cancel culture sets in, that person is no longer on the approved list, and suddenly you’re in the hot seat for something you forgot you said many years ago.
That concept may seem far fetched, but it’s more common than you think—and that’s just one very generic example. I could get specific, but I’m sure you already get the point here: Things you tweet today could be very damming a few years from now, even if they’re not a big deal at the time.
That’s why I archive all of my tweets that are six months old or older. My Twitter habits are very much brain-to-screen—if I think it, I tweet it. As of today, these are all harmless opinions (I mean, I do have hot takes on cereal), but who knows if I’ll be able to say the same thing five years from now. While it’s unlikely anything I say on Twitter could come back to haunt me later, it’s simply not a chance I’m willing to take. I tweet some stupid stuff, y’all. I’m not trying to let a joke today cost my job tomorrow.
That doesn’t just apply to your current job, either. Employers are known to check applicants’ social channels to see what kind of person they are. They’ll go back as far as they want to make sure you’re the right candidate for a job. Maybe you haven’t posted anything offensive or even controversial in the past few weeks, but what about six months ago? A year? Five years? Who knows.
By cleaning up your old posts, you can always be sure that nothing you said will come back to bite you later. They say that once something is posted on the internet, it can never truly be deleted, which may be true. But you can at least make it harder to find.
I know I’m not the same person I was five or ten years ago—a lot has changed since then. This brings me to my next point.
In December 2014, my life changed forever when my youngest son was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease. The following days, weeks, and months were the hardest of my life. Lots of tears and trouble dealing with the weight of it all, so I leaned on close friends and family. That meant a lot of posts and pictures on Facebook to keep everyone updated on his status.
Now, years later, those pictures still show up on our Google Nest Hubs and Chromecasts. And you know what? It never gets easier. Every time I see one—and I mean every single time—it’s like being back in that moment again. It’s a gut punch. I don’t want to forget it happened; I just want to be reminded on my own terms.
Maybe you can relate. Or maybe something else awful happened. The loss of a loved one. A divorce. A life changing diagnosis. Or maybe something darker—dealing with a stalker. Sexual harassment at work. Abuse. Or worse.
These are things that people often tend to seek shelter from on social media. When I’m going through a rough patch dealing with my son’s illness, I often post about it on Twitter. Why? Because I have some great friends on Twitter who are there to listen, reach out to help, or just show their support. Twitter can be a cesspool sometimes, but for me, it can also be a lifeline.
But I don’t want to be reminded of all the hard times if I look at Timehop or Facebook’s Memories feature. We all love to see the happy memories—the kids’ birthday parties, the family vacations—but the sad, hurtful, or scary memories can cut like a knife.
And while you choose to check these apps and features, sometimes these memories show up on their own—like the Home Hub scenario I mentioned earlier. I would never want to delete those photos permanently because they’re a crucial part of my life. But I can archive or hide them, so they don’t just show up and stab me in the heart unexpectedly. You can also hide specific posts from Facebook Memories for the same reason.
That last point is important—if you delete posts, they’re gone forever. But if you archive them, you can still access them at your own discretion. That’s a key distinction; regardless of the reason to get rid of a post, there’s always that chance you might want to see it again sometime—even if it’s just to laugh at how stupid you were a decade ago.
That’s why it’s generally best to archive posts. This hides them from your main feed, timeline, memories, and all that, but you can still see them if you choose to. Some networks offer some way to archive posts (Facebook and Instagram both do), but there’s another way that works across all networks, including those that don’t offer a native option: with a third-party service.
I’ve written about Jumbo Privacy before, and I still stand by it as my favorite app/service for handling my social accounts. Jumbo is primarily a security and privacy app for social—it can scan your accounts and help you do things like enable 2FA, delete old messages, and our purpose here: delete or archive old posts.
Once you link your social accounts to Jumbo, you can set it to remove posts older than a specific timeframe automatically. As I stated earlier, I have mine set to six months, but you can set it to as little as one day or as long as 30 years and pretty much anything in between.
Jumbo will automatically archive your posts to its own vault locally on your device, which is great for services that don’t offer an archive feature and to keep all of your stuff in one place. It then deletes those posts from the original network. The double-edged sword to Jumbo keeping all of its stuff stored on your device is that if you delete the app or change devices, that info is gone. Fortunately, you can back it up on your own (to a cloud service or whatever), so you’ll just need to remember to do this regularly.
Jumbo offers two tiers: Plus and Premium, along with a seven-day free trial so you can get a feel for the service. The company uses a “pay what you think is fair ” tier, with Plus starting at $2.99 a month and Pro starting at $8.99 a month. For more info on Jumbo, check out my deeper dive into the service.
The choice to post, modify, or remove your stuff on any social network is, of course, your call. While the above-listed things are merely suggestions for what I feel are important reasons to keep your old data off of social media, use your best judgment on how to handle it. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, but I hope this sheds a little more light on some things that you might not have otherwise thought of.