When it experienced backlash over plans to scrap inactive Twitter accounts, the social media giant backstepped. But the complaints were valid.
When I read that inactive Twitter accounts would be deleted, I cringed. I wondered about accounts that once belonged to those who are no longer with us.
One of the first I thought about belonged to my friend Rick Stilwell. He died unexpectedly in January 2013. His used the Twitter handle @RickCaffeinated.
Rick was the kind of guy who liked to connect people and did so using social media. He liked coffee and would often meet with friends over a cup.
I went to school with him, but he was a few years older than I was.
He managed to schedule ahead with “best of” posts for his website, so for a few months after he died, his Twitter account remained active.
Then those posts stopped as well.
His last post went up on July 13, 2013.
The plan for inactive Twitter accounts would call for Rick’s account and others like it to be purged. Granted, a lot of the links point to his website, which has long since disappeared. But Rick talked with his followers. It’d be a shame to lose that.
Inactive Twitter accounts were to have been purged
Twitter only recently announced the plan. The idea, not surprisingly, was to free up accounts people no longer use. That makes sense, because not everyone who joins Twitter stays on Twitter.
Sooner or later, they run out of accounts. The usernames that remain are less than idea because they require extra numbers or characters.
So recycling old accounts that are (apparently) no longer in use isn’t a terrible idea.
The plan called for the email accounts attached to those inactive Twitter accounts to receive a notification. To keep the account, the owner would need to post something by Dec. 11.
If your Twitter account isn’t active because you died, the email won’t accomplish much.
The plan also would presumably prevent old, unused accounts from being hacked. If no one’s using them, they’re probably not watching them for suspicious activity, either.
Twitter puts plan on hold to figure out next steps
Twitter now says it will hold off until it can figure out how to properly “memorialize” accounts of the dear departed.
That means there may be a way they can preserve accounts like those of my friend Rick. What I don’t know — and probably neither do they — is how they’ll handle that.
If another user takes the @RickCaffeinated handle someday, what’ll happen when you visit that profile? Will it look the way Wikipedia does when it asks across the top of the page if you’re looking for something with a similar name? They call that “disambiguation.” That might be a bit awkward for Twitter.
But I’m glad they’re thinking about those who’ve left us. I’m glad they want to make sure their voices aren’t silenced on their platform.