Most people know that they can delete their incoming Direct Messages on Twitter.
That is, if your DM inbox is getting a little cluttered, you can delete old messages or those you no longer wish to see, plus junk like spam and mass marketing messages, and tidy things up. A bit of spring cleaning, if you will.
But here’s the thing – you can delete your outgoing messages as well, and when you do they’re removed completely from the recipient’s Direct Message inbox. Like magic.
It’s very easy to do.
- Log on to Twitter.com
- Click on Messages
- Select a conversation
- Delete any message you choose
Both incoming and outgoing messages will be permanently erased from the Twitter record.
Why is this useful?
Well, we all, occasionally, and from time to time, send messages that we later regret. Emotionally-charged, spur of the moment (and very over-heated) reactions, for example. Or maybe the message went to the wrong person. Perhaps it’s a business deal that didn’t work out. Or quite possibly it’s 3.43am on a Sunday morning and you’ve just told your ex-girlfriend that you want to get back together… even though she got married to somebody else the weekend before.
When we send these messages openly on Twitter, they’re out there. Sure, you can delete them, but because of the way different Twitter clients feed tweets to users they will always be seen by somebody. Or a lot of somebodies. And somebodies like to retweet.
(It’s worth observing that the chances of somebody seeing and retweeting a tweet you didn’t mean to send is exponentially linked to how massively embarrassing or career-ending that tweet is. And this works on a scale: slightly embarrassing tweets will be seen and retweeted by two or three people, mostly casual Twitter acquaintances. If your tweet is catastrophic, Stephen Fry will immediately jump on board. And he’s not even following you.)
Direct messages are different – they’re private, and only go to one person. And that’s a blessing, because if you delete that outgoing message there’s a good chance the other person will never have seen it. Especially if you act fast enough.*
And certainly if it’s 3.44am on a Sunday.
Yep, you have the power to delete both incoming and outgoing messages from your Direct Messages inbox, and you could, if you so wished, erase every private conversation you’ve ever had on Twitter. Which, you know, might be useful if some of that stuff could be held against you in court. Or paraded in front of the media.
You’ll have your own reasons. Or maybe not. But even if butter doesn’t melt in your mouth, it’s nice to know that, should you so choose, you can make everything go away. After all, there’s a whole other Twitter out there, simmering just below the surface, and I’m pretty sure all of Hell would break lose if every single one of those oh-so-private messages was suddenly made public.
Oh, while I’m here, something else to think about: when you delete incoming messages, the person who sent them can easily find out, because they’ll no longer be visible in their Direct Messages area. So, be mindful how you do this, and be careful out there.
Somebody might get hurt.
* Disclaimer: while deleting Direct Messages that you’ve sent can be an effective way to save egg from hitting you firmly on the face, it’s important to note that Twitter sends users an email when they’ve received a new DM, which does contain the message. Some people opt out of this so you might get lucky, but like many things in life this doesn’t come with any kind of guarantee. But, hey, who reads emails from Twitter, anyway? Your ex?