Millennials have long been willing guinea pigs for emerging social media.
Unfortunately, that means when we misuse those sites, our mistakes are made public.
Such is the case with Twitter and tweets past. The most recent person of note to be embroiled in such matters is one Francesca Allen of recent Love Island UK fame.
In an unearthed tweet from 2012 when Francesca was 16, her friend Paige Banks took to the social media site after a day out at Wireless Festival to share a message which read: ‘Highlight of the dayyy seeing Caroline Flack and calling herrr a dirtyy pedo withhhh @francesca_allen hahaha (sic).’
The slur refers to Flack's brief romance with then 17-year-old Harry Styles when she was 31.
Lest we forget the recently dug-up Facebook posts of Love Island's own Tommy Fury, whose past statuses deserve a Pulitzer.
Reps for Allen have since shared a statement with publications which reads: ‘This was a historic tweet that has not come from Francesca directly. ‘Francesca can’t reply as she is in the villa but she would be mortified if she was judged based on the actions of a 16-year-old friend. ‘She has a lot of respect for Caroline and is looking forward to meeting her.’
Of course, this isn't an isolated incident. Back in December, Hollywood-based comic Kevin Hart's old tweets cost him LA's most coveted role – that of Oscar host.
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His several-years-old missives, filled with homophobic slurs, began circulating almost as soon as Hart was announced as the host of the 2019 Academy Awards ceremony. The 39-year-old actor and comedian deleted many of the messages, including a 2011 tweet in which he wrote that were his son to play with his daughter's dollhouse, Hart would "break it over his head & say n my voice 'stop that's gay.'"
But the internet quickly dug up several more crude and cruel statements from his Twitter feed, some of which included terms like "FAT FAG" and jokes about AIDS.
Disney film director James Gunn also got caught up in the crossfire. After Gunn criticised President Trump and Republicans online, far-right figures and outlets like the Daily Caller dug up old posts he wrote that mentioned paedophilia and rape. The director since apologised for his “offensive” and “shocking” jokes, and though the tweets were a decade old, Disney found them objectionable enough to fire him.
That kind of malicious trolling is not to be confused with the work of researchers and journalists who the old social media posts of public officials to shed light on beliefs that are pertinent to their jobs. However, the oft-missing context and direct nature of text over speech leaves many to believe the worst rather than benefitting the doubt.
There’s no way to easily tell, when looking back at someone’s timeline from years ago, what jokes were trending, what the national mood was like, what everyone was faux-outraged by. What was funny? Who knows. Why not joke? Death is coming.
The only good argument for not deleting tweets is to keep us honest, to hold us to account. The Library of Congress at one stage tried to archive every public tweet in an effort to keep a hefty public record, but starting this year it “will acquire tweets on a selective basis” only. It’ll be there to maintain the archive of people like President Trump, whose tweets matter, sadly.
However, there isn't a great public-interest reason to keep the past musings of, say, D-list celebrities or lower.
And while sometimes old tweets, Facebook statuses and Instagram shots can feel like lifeboat rafts to our former lives, perhaps deleting old tweets of times when we were less woke is likely the better call.
Main image by francesca_allen
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