New Year's Resolution: How to make a new start by deleting all of your Facebook posts

A New Year's resolution to change Facebook posting habits is worth considering for most people. That trail of the ups and downs of the past year could hold an unpleasant surprise that could be socially or professionally limiting.

The movie Minority Report predicted a future in which people are arrested and convicted for future crimes they are predicted to commit. Mark Cuban once elevated this as a possible consequence of social media postings in a video for According to Cuban, social media content will be collected and your psychological profile analyzed for uses stretching way beyond advertising. In his very dark scenario, Cuban predicts that image recognition will alert individuals and enterprises that you are approaching, including a characterization compiled from your psychological profile generated from social media posts.

Since Cuban was hyping some auto-vanishing messaging services in which he had invested, perhaps his Orwellian future should be taken with a grain of salt. But there are plenty of anecdotal stories about people whose lives have been ruined or jobs lost because of careless Facebook posts. Lindsey Stone, for example, posted a picture of herself at the Arlington National Cemetery that many considered disrespectful. She lost her job after a Facebook page demanding she be fired received 19,000 likes, according to the Daily Mail. Ravindu Thilakawardhana was studying medicine at the University of Leicestershire until he responded to an offensive Facebook post with a threatening quote by Liam Neeson, including a photo of the actor. A university disciplinary panel expelled him after deciding he was unfit to practice medicine, according to the Leicester Mercury. His dismissal was upheld by a judge.

There's a lot of expert advice about what should and shouldn't be posted to Facebook. Few heed it. It's too hard not to when every type of media from the respected New York Times to pornography sites and everything in between have share buttons, and every app on smartphones, most notably the incriminating camera, have an easy share dialog.

Many users post three to five updates per day, when annotated photos and videos, news stories, and comments are taken together. That's 1,000 to to 1,700 posts per year. Finding the potentially offending post in the activity log is tediously time-consuming. And most of the history is stale, boring, and begging to be deleted. It's more efficient to delete all of the posts at once, but how Facebook doesn't have that feature, short of deleting your account.

Facebook developer Khalil Shreateh built a Chrome Browser extension called Facebook Time Line Cleaner to expunge all the posts from a news feed. Here's how:

This extension has a lot of work to do, so be patient. The script is looking up each post and deleting them in the way a user would; a thousand posts per year dating back to 2007 could take longer than 10 minutes to delete. If it doesn't work, refresh the browser and start over. The deletion is thorough; beware that all photos will be deleted, too.

Don't procrastinate. Facebook changes its browser code regularly, which could break Shreateh's extension.

After you're done, you can exhale and relax, and start your New Year's resolution to be more careful online. But deleting your history is always a safe decision.


Steven Max Patterson

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