Why People Delete Old Twitter Posts

Fear of personal safety, losing a job or just pissing people off are some of the motivations behind blog “scrubbing,” or deleting previously-posted information. But remember, online, nothing is ever gone for good.

Cleanup is an integral part of living online — so much so that some celebrities have deleted their accounts entirely, and politicians' deleted tweets are meticulously tracked. And we've all had the moral hangover that comes when you remember that drunken Facebook post or overly emo tweet. But what ultimately compels us to go back and virtually purge? Communication researchers at Kent State University were curious, and set out to understand peoples' motivations for deleting previously posted information.

In a new study, the researchers analyzed over 350 open-ended responses from bloggers — broadly defined as anyone that "actively engages and interacts with community members" (so anything from micro-blogs like Twitter to more traditional blogging platforms like Xanga) — to identify reasons for after-the-fact deletion or privacy adjustments, and the types of users that are compelled to do so.

“Our focus was really on ultimate post activity, recognizing that sometimes when people make choices, they still go back and decide their initial choice wasn’t all that wise,” Jeffrey Child, lead author of the study, told me.

Accounting for factors like gender, blog activity and general disinhibition, the researchers identified six types of user attitudes toward information disclosure: the self-centric, the utilitarian, the planner, the sharer, the protector and the unworried orientations blogger. Self-centric bloggers take the "I don't give a f%$k" approach, whereas utilitarian types only post what they think is acceptable information. Planners put a lot of thought into every post, sharers don't. The protector types rarely disclose any personal information, and the unworried orientations blogger is not easily embarrassed.

What's interesting, though, is that people with initially more open attitudes toward sharing private information (the self-centrics, sharers and unworried bloggers) actually return to old posts and make deletions more than the private, protector-type users. This suggests that those with open attitudes toward sharing actually worry more about the ramifications of a post, and ultimately demonstrate a wider range of reasons for deleting posts after the fact.

The Seven Reasons for Deleting Previously-Posted Information:

1. Conflict Management

1. Conflict Management

Posts that reveals too much about someone else or discuss someone negatively — even Charlie Sheen — often get deleted.

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