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Killing Your Twitter Account (and Reviving It)

loltombstoneAs the culminating move of a Twitter-based storytelling experiment, I recently deleted my Twitter account. One minute it was there, all twenty-six thousand and something tweets, and the next it was gone. My tweets, my favorites, my lists, my followers — all gone. A number of friends were in disbelief that I had so summarily erased everything that I had ever written on Twitter. Not only had I evidently turned my back on the social networking service, I had destroyed all the symbolic capital that I had built up on it. Were it not for an off-site back-up, no trace at all would have remained of my years on Twitter.

But I knew something most people didn’t.

You don’t — you can’t – delete a Twitter account. At least not at first. Instead, you deactivate it.

You do this on your settings page. There at the very bottom, directly below the button to request your Twitter archive, there is a red text link to “Deactivate my account”:

Twitter  Settings - Mozilla Firefox_2013-03-19_10-17-01

Click this link and you’ll land on a “Confirm Deactivation” page that spells out exactly how the process works. Essentially what happens when you deactivate your account is it disappears entirely from Twitter, but not from Twitter’s servers. All of your user data is retained for 30 days, it’s just not visible to anyone.

If you log back into Twitter.com (and it has to be the website, not an app or mobile client) anytime in the next 30 days, you can reactivate your account. It should be restored exactly as it was the moment you deactivated it. All your tweets, followers, favorites, lists, the accounts you follow — all will be restored.

If, however, you do not log back in within 30 days of deactivating your account, then it will be irrevocably deleted.

Why might you want to deactivate your Twitter account only temporarily? Maybe you’re interviewing for a job and would rather not have your live-tweeting of The Hobbit play a role in the search committee’s decision. Or perhaps you’re the target of a spam attack, or even worse, being stalked online. Or it could simply be for dramatic effect, as in my case.

How well does this deactivation and reactivation work?

It works and I know because I tested it myself.

As I said, I deleted — or rather, deactivated — my Twitter account, and within a few minutes, there was no record of “samplereality” on Twitter. Twenty-one days later, I logged back into Twitter.com, which began the reactivation process.

It’s important to note that the restoration doesn’t happen immediately and it doesn’t happen all at once. In my case, my tweets were restored within a few hours. But then my account was in a strange limbo situation, in which I had no followers and wasn’t following anyone myself. Even stranger, anybody who tried to follow me couldn’t. Twitter recommends waiting 48 hours after reactivation before requesting support, which is what I did. When two days had passed and my follower/following counts were still at 0, I filled out a Twitter Support form. Roughly another 36 hours passed before Twitter got back to me, informing me that my account had fully been restored. I checked and indeed it was, with everything exactly like it was before I deactivated my account three weeks earlier.

I had successfully killed — and revived — my Twitter account, and so can you.

loltombstone image courtesy of Flickr user srslylisa / Creative Commons Licensed

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