Use The Semiphemeral App To Delete Your Tweets While Keeping Your Faves

Photo: Matylda Czarnecka, Flickr

There are a lot of good reasons to delete your tweets, but I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger. While the idea makes sense on paper, I know there are things I will regret erasing. We’ve recommended services to clear your Twitter before, but as far as I know, all of them delete your whole history. It’s all or nothing.

Semiphemeral, a program made by technology reporter Micah Lee, is perfect for those looking to pick what gets mass-deleted from their Twitter accounts. When you run it, it can delete all of your tweets except the ones you choose to keep, which does sound great, but there’s one little catch. To use the application, you need to sign up for a Twitter developer account and get elbow-deep in a procedure that’s a bit more complicated than pressing a button and nuking all of your tweets en masse.

Still, if you want the security of deleting your tweets but need more control before you commit, this is a great way to get it. We’ll walk you through how to set it up so it’s not overwhelming.

Part 1: Everything you need to install to get started

You’ll need access to the Twitter API in order to use Semiphemeral, which the company assigns after you tell them you’re making an app.

To start, sign into Twitter, and then go the app section of the Twitter developer site and click the “Create an App” button.

If you need to, follow the instructions to sign up for a free Twitter Developer account. (Twitter will send you through the sign-up process if you need it.)

In the make-an-app tool, you will be asked to supply a name, description, website, and callback. The name and description are up to you, if you don’t have an actual app in development, Lee generously suggests on his blog you list his GitHub page.

Lastly, for the URL, you should use the address generated by the app — http://127.0.0.1:8080/. Once you turn that in, you’ll get a few credential codes that you’ll need to use with the app:

  • API key

  • API Token

  • Access Token Key

  • Access Token Secret

Write these down (or copy and paste them into a text file). You’ll need them later. You will also need to download Pip, an installer that lets you run programs written in Python.

Part 2: Using Semiphemeral

Now that you have what you need, you can download Semiphemeral from Lee’s GitHub page. Next, open Pip and enter the following command to install Semiphemeral:

$ pip3 install semiphemeral

You now have two tasks: Set up the parameters for the tweets you’d like to delete—all tweets more than two weeks old, for example—and then pick the tweets from that group you want to save.

To get started purging your Twitter history, run the following command in Pip.

ALERT! ALERT! Unidentified body block: {"type":"Code","style":null,"value":[{"containers":[],"value":[{"styles":["Code"],"value":"$ semiphemeral Configure","type":"Text"}],"type":"Paragraph"}]}

Once that’s set, the program will generate a local website—that’s http://127.0.0.1:8080/, the site we talked about before. Pull that up in your web browser to access the Semiphemeral configuration menu. After you input your Twitter API credentials and username, you will be able to set how set what kind of Twitter records you’d like to keep, and program some broad exceptions to the purge process—like tweets with a lot of likes and retweets.

This is the Semiphemeral configuration menu (Screenshot: Micah Lee)

Before you can set your exceptions, Semiphemeral first needs to download your Twitter timeline, so run this next string in Pip. Lee noted in his blog that this will probably take a long time, especially the first time you run it. Be patient.

ALERT! ALERT! Unidentified body block: {"type":"Code","style":null,"value":[{"containers":[],"value":[{"styles":["Code"],"value":"$ semiphemeral Fetch","type":"Text"}],"type":"Paragraph"}]}

Once you’ve finished the “fetching,” you will be able to manually select tweets to save. The list is searchable, so you don’t need to scroll through each tweet one by one. Once you’ve selected the parameters and picked the tweets you want to save, you can delete your tweets with one last line in Pip:

ALERT! ALERT! Unidentified body block: {"type":"Code","style":null,"value":[{"containers":[],"value":[{"styles":["Code"],"value":"$ semiphemeral Delete","type":"Text"}],"type":"Paragraph"}]}

One thing you need to know about this process is that it doesn’t repeat automatically. If you make more tweets, you’ll have to go back into Pip and re-run the deletion command to remove them at some later point.

If you want to get fancy, you can set up Semiphemeral to run automatically by whatever interval you want, but that’s probably a bit more intense of a process than you need. Run the deletion command every few months (or once a year), and you’ll be set.


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