Deleting My Teenage Tweets: A Student Journalist’s Perspective
December 23, 2013
Samantha Goldberg


With college graduation slowly approaching, I realized it was time to reevaluate my social media presence in preparation for entering the real world.

I’ve always had my Twitter account, @samgoldberg16, set to “private,” but in this day and age, it’s hard for anything to really be private on the Internet.

The main question I had to ask myself was should I start fresh and create a completely separate Twitter account? Or, should I just go through my old Twitter feed and delete tweets I didn’t think were too “professional?”

My first decision? Create a new account.

After trying to choose some variation of “Samantha Goldberg” (the struggles of having such a common name), I finally found one that was available. There was my clean slate.

Tweets? 0. Followers? 0. It was more than just a little discouraging.

I put out a few tweets, gained a few followers, but I finally decided after having my original account for more than three years and building up my social media presence, I didn’t want to have to start all over again.

So, I went back to my first account and cleaned out my Twitter feed. It was a long, strenuous process to go through more than 1,000 tweets, but  it was worth it.

After all, I was 17 when I started my account. I’m only 21 now, but in those years in between it seems like we mature and change exponentially. When I got down to some of my first tweets, I felt like I was reading a different person’s voice. Did I really write some of these things?

It felt strange deleting some of my tweets, but as a graduating senior about to enter the professional field, I knew it was time to clean up my act.

So, what kind of tweets did I purge?

Most of the ones that went were those with extra letters (“heyy guysss”– for some reason writing like that used to be cool), tweets about going to parties, complaining about a certain teacher or class (never a good idea), and insider conversations with friends (“I miss you!!”)

The reason for all these less-than-quality tweets? Well, when I started out, I didn’t know what Twitter was for. It was just a new site that some of my friends were using, so I thought, why not?

Now, I want it to help me build my brand as a journalist, and I didn’t want these tweets to be part of my new, professional image.

I also realized my tweets complaining about a teacher could come back to me. I’ve seen how tweets can get people in trouble. I’m sure whoever was behind the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “mule” tweet probably wishes they had thought twice before hitting that enter button. But being a professional journalist also means putting yourself in the spotlight. If you’re working for a prominent news organization– chances are a lot of people are going to see your tweets. And catch your mistakes.

Within the journalism world, there are a lot of mixed opinions on if it is better for journalists to delete incorrect tweets completely or offer a follow-up tweet correcting the error.

In a January 2011 Poynter article,  Mallary Jean Tenore discussed a live chat Poynter held after the Tuscon shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, where journalists discussed deleting tweets. NPR’s Andy Carvin said that instead of deleting his incorrect tweet about Giffords being dead, he tweeted an “update” saying there were conflicting reports about her death, because he wanted to remain transparent about the mistake. However, Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan argued that not deleting incorrect tweets could result in more errors.

No matter what your opinion is on deleting tweets, the fact is that once you enter the professional journalism world, you are going to gain a larger online presence and be “watched” by your followers. So it’s important to remain professional, especially on social media.

While deleting my tweets certainly doesn’t mean they’re gone forever, my Twitter presence is still relatively small and my teenage tweets aren’t likely to be missed. But as I enter the real world, and hopefully gain a larger following in the journalism Twitter-sphere, I need to be more aware of the things I’m tweeting and the kind of image I want to present.

I had my first brush with the “real world”  this month when Mediabistro mentioned my first published article with this publication and gave me a shoutout on their site.

While some journalists might not agree with my decision to delete some of my tweets, my newly scrubbed Twitter account made me feel comfortable enough to tweet about this Mediabistro mention,  which brought more attention to my article and inspired discussion about the topic.

With more Twitter experience now under my belt and college graduation slowly encroaching, I will be more conscious of what I’m tweeting and how I’m presenting myself.  And hopefully in a few years from now, I will look back and be proud of my tweets instead of regretting publishing them.

Comments
  • Lisa Rossi

    I’d like to hear from news managers on this issue: Do you look at what young professionals did on social media in their teens when making hiring decisions?

    • http://www.spinsucks.com/ Clay Morgan

      When I was an editor and would hire reporters – and even today working for a digital marketing agency – I’d tend to look back a year or so. Rarely did I make it to the teens, but it’s not just teens. There were recent college grads applying for reporter positions that probably needed to clean up their social a little.

      Then again, we probably all do.