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Nothing or all

From Craig Mod’s 36th Roden newsletter I liked this bit about regularly deleting old tweets.

I generally want everything that’s online to be kept around forever. I know it’s not always a good idea, or even possible, but that’s my default position and I go to sometimes silly lengths to keep my own stuff around for as long as I can.

But Craig Mod’s found it extremely freeing to have his tweets automatically delete after seven days:

The archival purists out there would then say — but! but those responses are now tethered to a nothingness! To which I say: Yeah, man, like, what is anything, anyway but, like, nothingness interrupted? Also: Who cares! Make a mess. Delete the mess! Try out an idea. Then backtrack! Retweet someone for an hour, then undo it! It makes the medium so much more dynamic, less staid.

Even as an archival purist I can appreciate this. I kind of wish Twitter was only ephemeral. What if all tweets were deleted after seven days? After one day? Sure, us stupid purists could go to some trouble and/or expense to archive things for longer if we wanted but it’d be quite freeing (and cheaper for Twitter) for tweets to be transient.

In a way I wish more things were purposefully transient, especially if everything else made some effort to not be. Everything should be clear:

On our service your content will disappear forever after 48 hours.


On our service we guarantee your content will remain at the same URL for at least twenty years and we have a non-profit organisation with [I don’t know, a non-partisan board of magical directors and spectacular funding and servers inside multiple mountains] to ensure this.

One or the other. Nothing or all.

I notice that paid-for Slack workspaces can have messages automatically disappear after a set period of time, as little as one day. I can imagine how freeing that would be for some work Slacks.

But back to Craig Mod, and this is the point that’s been rattling around my head for the past few days:

If an idea is any good, chances are you shouldn’t just be tweeting it, but rather giving it a more solid, fleshed out form as a blog post or essay or zine or whatever. This is out of respect for the idea itself. What I find most dangerous about Twitter is that it can generate similar chemical feelings to having done “the work,” when in fact, you haven’t done the work. You’ve just micro-plastic’d idea potential. Make Twitter ephemeral and it seems to undo this psychic voodoo. (For me, anyway.)

If you’re clear about what is ephemeral and what is permanent-ish then it changes how you use them. It changes your priorities, and what you say where, and how you say it. Think of all the old bloggers lost to Twitter. Maybe some of them woud have stuck with it.

It’s the first time that I, an archival purist, have considered auto-deleting my tweets, so well done Craig Mod.

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