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Here is a thing that many people don’t seem to know – what you put online stays online AND other people can see it.

Scan and Save is a Thing

You’ll see many articles that include notice that something comes from “a now deleted tweet.” Just because you delete a tweet or a Facebook post doesn’t mean that it’s disappeared. Tweets are especially durable. They are easy to screen capture and there are even systems that automatically scan and save tweets for future searching.

People, like Rose McGowan referring to the N-Word, Alec Baldwin lashed out at a film critic who savaged a documentary he made, have tweets saved and passed on. Deleting doesn’t solve the problem and most people not faced with immediate controversy don’t delete or review old tweets anyway. The tweets slip on down the list, now unread and unattended, but they may still pop to the surface.

In fact, the MLA citation system even has an official format for a deleted tweet.

A Beer Story

An Iowa story very noisily hit the air waves. Carson King accidentally started a fundraiser and generously agreed to turn it over to the Stead Family Children’s Hospital. When Des Moines Register reporter Aaron Calvin did a story on him, he found time to scroll back years through King’s timeline and found two objectionable tweets. When Calvin interviewed King he challenged him about them. King was now appalled at what he had tweeted and immediately had a mea culpa press conference leading the beer company who had picked up the campaign to immediately cut ties. The Register, having had its big scoop short circuited by King’s press conference did publish the tweets and his response in the article but slanted the article very positively and stuck the tweets at the end of the article hoping everyone would forget about it. Anyone should be able to live up to that kind of background check if they wanted any kind of public life or press The Register insisted – their employees did. People were infuriated that instead of focusing on the current fundraiser that The Register spent time and money looking up King’s old tweets that they pounced on Calvin’s old feed — and immediately found more than 2 objectionable tweets on a variety of subjects. This time it was The Register that cut ties and has been attempting to backpedal ever since. Calvin wrote a piece explaining his very different take on what happened.

BUT our point is that just because time has gone by does NOT make what you post disappear and that even things you deleted might still be out there somewhere.

You Don’t Have To Be Famous

Just because you aren’t famous or aren’t in the media’s eye, does NOT mean that the only people who can see or read what you post are friends and family. For instance, I recently found someone’s tweet on a hashtag. I responded to their question and then some other people who follow that hashtag responded. She couldn’t believe it – apparently not understanding how hashtags work – she angrily tweeted that her posts were only meant to be seen by her friends. Other people finding her tweet via hashtag lead to her being tagged in on 4 or 5 tweets she didn’t want to read. The consequences can be much more serious that that. (See note)

Teenage Examples of Things That Got Them in Trouble Right after Posting

Harvard Acceptances Revoked and Revoked Again

People Got Fired (From 2016, but only descriptions of things people said happened on reddit)

CBS VP Fired

Life Lesson Take Away

So in the end  the take away lesson is this – other people can read what you write online, now and in the future. Inc put together a column of advice on how to not let this be you.

NOTE: Just in case you don’t know. Hashtags were created to string together different tweets that had tagged themselves as having a certain subject. Anytime someone searches that hashtag or clicks the hashtag hyperlink within a certain tweet a list pulls up of all tweets that used that hashtag. Quite a few people you see tweeting stuff using hashtags in a similar way to saying very and thinking they are clever. However you mean the hashtags to work it still automatically links your tweet to others and to someone searching on the hashtags (which lots of people do) will find you tweet. Even more than just posting your stuff to begin with it makes it easy for people who don’t know you to find things you posted. That is supposed to be a good thing and it is, as long as you mean to shout whatever you’re hashtagging from the rooftops.

Sarah Uthoff is a reference library at Kirkwood Community College. LIKE the Kirkwood Community College Library on Facebook and find links to Sarah all over the web at her About Me Profile.