The Permanence of Social Media

Elon Musk recently became Twitter’s biggest shareholder, owning almost 10 percent of the company’s shares, and also serves as a board member for the popular social media platform. Musk launched a Twitter poll asking users if they want an edit button on Monday April 4, addressing the seemingly endless requests for this feature and further expressing his excitement to make “significant improvements to Twitter in coming months.”

Many predict that the results of this poll, which will close on the evening of Tuesday, April 5, will decide whether or not this feature will be added to the app in the future. There seem to be mixed reactions from users regarding the plausibility of an edit button. Although many believe that it would be beneficial to have the ability to fix spelling errors or inaccurate information, others assert that allowing users to go back and edit their Tweets would cause confusion if that Tweet has already been circulated.

The editorial staff agrees that even with an edit button, there is still a certain level of accountability that is upheld when a user chooses to publish content to the Internet. Anyone can see it and it’s never truly gone, even after it is edited or deleted.

“This new feature is similar to one that already exists on LinkedIn, as well as Facebook and Instagram,” said one editor. “It’s so easy to document a person’s posts, so I am not sure an edit option will make a huge difference in holding people accountable for their posts. I don’t believe you can ever make your digital footprint cease to exist when you’ve already established it. Even if an individual deactivates their account altogether, there are always digital crumbs that can be traced back to that person.”

“I think an edit button is a good implementation as long as there is a time limit for how long you can edit your tweets, say 5 minutes or so,” suggested another editor. “I also think you should certainly be mindful of what you post, as while you can make it difficult to access, sites such as the Way Back Machine and Metadata mean your posts are online forever.”

“Social media has become such an important part of this generation’s way of life, and I think there’s a certain level of education and responsibility that needs to come with it,” commented a third editor. “Your digital footprint is very real and very difficult to get rid of. It would take way more than just editing or deleting something for it to truly go away. I still don’t think that Twitter really needs an edit button because it’s just going to make things more confusing in the long run, but I also don’t think it would be the end of the world.”

Other editors recognize the less serious uses of an edit button, such as correcting spelling or grammatical errors after a post has been published.

“I really like this idea personally because I always make spelling mistakes or simple silly mistakes in my Tweets. After I post and I see it, I get annoyed because I have to delete it and create a new one,” said a fourth editor. “However, there are definitely negatives to this feature because people might say something morally wrong and will be able to edit it. I think in reality if that happens, people are always screenshotting things so if it’s a public figure making a poor comment, then there’s a good chance there may be photographic evidence of what they said previously.

“There are both positives and negatives to this kind of feature,” added another editor. On one hand, you can edit spelling errors if you mess up or make a simple mistake. However, I think the negatives outweigh the positives because this would allow you to go back and alter what you say and essentially take it back if you don’t want to be held accountable.”

Ultimately, the editors agree that it’s important to be aware of the fact that content posted on the Internet never truly disappears, even if it seems as though you’ve gotten rid of it. As such, the editors believe that adding edit features to social media platforms like Twitter provide a false sense of security for users to post whatever they want without fully considering the potential repercussions. Still, it is important to be aware of the permanence of social media and to think before you post rather than relying on the ability to go back and edit or delete content you may end up regretting.