People think of Twitter as a town square. A place online where we can connect with everyone in the world who share our interests and ideas.
It sounds exciting, but we don’t always get these results in practice.
Part of the problem is that everything we tweet exists forever until we choose to go back and delete it. On Twitter, we’re on the record by default.
Knowing this, even subconsciously, changes the way we communicate.
Off the record, by default.
In the physical world, we primarily talk to one another off the record.
Nothing we say is recorded, so we’re free to be more authentic, ask stupid questions, and explore a huge range of topics!
And since every word isn’t going to follow us forever, we don’t feel a need to be consistent with every little thing we say. In fact, we barely remember every little thing we say.
If we want to put ourselves on the record, we can! Just scribble down your fantastic idea on the back of a napkin or record yourself ranting with your phone.
On the record, by default.
On Twitter, it’s just the opposite. We’re on the record by default. Everything we tweet exists forever until we make the extra effort to find and delete it.
And when we’re on the record, we communicate in a strange way than we never would otherwise.
Instead of being authentic, we speak with authority. We speak in absolutes and aim to come off as wise and knowledgeable.
Instead of asking questions and being curious, we form hot takes and strong opinions. After all, nuance doesn’t get likes or retweets.
And instead of exploring a diverse set of topics — which would open us up to saying something stupid — we focus on just a few issues or ideas within our wheelhouse.
Worst of all, when our words are on the record, we feel the need to be consistent with what we say. We constantly ignore new evidence and ideas when they come around and strengthen our echo chambers.
There’s nothing wrong with being on the record, but maybe — just maybe — not every thought or idea has to stick around forever. Perhaps we can make space for newer and better ones.
Changing the defaults
I’m not sure I can change everyone’s relationship with Twitter, but I figured I could at least change my own. A few months ago, I started building Tweet Sweeper.
Tweet Sweeper sets your Twitter account from being on the record by default to being off the record by default.
Every day, Tweet Sweeper automatically scans through my tweets and deletes every tweet after a year.
If I have a tweet that I want to keep longer, I can log into Tweet Sweeper and keep it with just a little bit of extra work.
If you’d like to be off the record by default, sign up with Tweet Sweeper and start choosing the tweets you want to keep. When you’re ready to start purging the rest, it’s only $29/month.