Online posts and profiles can outlive the people who create them. Even deleted material can show up long after you think -- or hope -- you trashed it forever. Some aspects of your Twitter account survive at least temporarily after you get rid of them. Under special circumstances, deleted tweets may remain visible in the posting activities of other people. What disappears, when and how it vanishes depends on many factors, including the nature of what you deleted.
Account Deletions or Inactivity
You can deactivate your Twitter account and all its tweets from the Twitter website, although not from mobile Twitter applications. Once you take this step, Twitter gives you 30 days to change your mind, during which time your profile page and tweets remain intact. After the 30-day mark, your account eventually vanishes, although it may show up for days, weeks or months before Twitter finally purges it. If you fail to stay active on Twitter -- at least logging in, if not tweeting, a minimum of once every six months -- you receive a "please-come-back" email message warning you that inactive accounts risk deletion. As of January 2014, Twitter eventually renames inactive accounts but typically doesn't delete their postings.
Individual Tweets or Direct Messages
The same interface you use to post a tweet or send a direct message also provides your means of deleting individual communications. If you delete a tweet, it disappears from your timeline and those of all your followers. Either you or the person with whom you exchange a private direct message can delete it, after which it vanishes permanently. Although Twitter doesn't provide a means of deleting tweets en masse and doesn't sanction the act of doing so, you can use third-party services to perform bulk deletions.
Retweets or Repostings
Automatic retweets disappear when you delete the underlying tweet that someone reposted. Manual and modified retweets don't suffer the same fate. To create a manual retweet, you copy the content of someone's post and paste it into a new tweet of your own, which associates the retweeted message with your account, not the originator's. So long as the account that creates a manual retweet -- or modifies someone's tweet to fit it and a comment into 140 characters -- remains active, that content remains visible. A username that points to a deleted account can remain visible in a manual retweet because these posts typically include the username of the original poster, prefaced with the "@" sign and placed at the beginning of the message.
Leading search engines index Twitter profiles and posts. As a result, your Twitter identity and tweets may show up in search results, especially if you discuss or mention prominent Twitter accounts, or hot subject matter that leads both the news and Twitter's list of trending topics. Because search engines cache their results, deleted tweets and accounts can show up in search results even after they vanish from Twitter itself. To eradicate this information permanently, you can request that the search engine delete the link that points to it (see Resources).
- Twitter Help Center: Posting or Deleting Direct Messages
- Twitter Help Center: Deleting a Tweet
- Twitter Help Center: I'm Missing Tweets or DMs
- Twitter Help Center: Inactive Account Policy
- Twitter Help Center: Why Is My Twitter Profile in Google Search?
- Twitter Help Center: Deactivating Your Account
- PCMag.com: The Case of the Disappearing Retweets
- Planet Botch: Has Twitter Deleted My Account?
- Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images