Twitter users have been asking for a tweet-edit option more or less since Twitter started, or at least it feels that way. In some ways, it doesn’t feel like that big of an ask: We can edit Facebook statuses. We can edit Instagram captions. We can edit Slack messages. Some of these options append a little “(edit)” tag, so the shadier members of our society can’t claim they were saying the whole time whatever it is they changed their message to say.
Twitter has always felt like more of a permanent record than these other services. This does mean that some very wrong tweets get very out of control, which is a terrible consequence, or that a tweet with a very good joke with a typo in it goes viral anyway, which is a somewhat less terrible consequence. Either way, the ability to edit tweets has always felt materially different; it’s something about the fact that raw information is sort of all Twitter has.
Facebook posts, for instance, only ever really exist in one central place, which is the News Feed. Users can share others’ posts to their own timeline, but it’s a somewhat less used feature than on Twitter, where retweets are one of the only forms of currency. If the Facebook user deletes their original post, it is also deleted from the timeline of everyone who shared it, even if they added onto it.
So awesome that I had to use that word twice in one tweet... sigh. edit button plz kthxbai?— Veronica Belmont (@Veronica) August 2, 2008
I wish twitter has "Edit Tweet" option— Feelings ☾ (@Friendstagram) July 22, 2018
When is Twitter going to give us an edit button because I’m to lazy to keep creating a new tweet— Jareel 💪🏾 (@Coreynation70) July 18, 2018
when you post a tweet & it gets favd then you realize it has grammatical errors so you delete+edit+repost & want to beg ppl to fav it again— Mira Gonzalez (@miragonz) October 29, 2012
This is not the case for Twitter: When one retweets a tweet, it becomes wholly represented, often standalone, on the their own page. When that tweet is deleted, any commentary you added lives on, with a shadowy gray box where the tweet the user intended to amplify used to live. And regardless of retweets, any tweet that posts that a user tries to delete almost always lives on in some awkward way, cached in their followers’ apps where they can read it but can’t interact with it at all.
I think we can find a happy medium here. There is a feature in Gmail that allows users to unsend emails. But it is not really unsending them; it’s just holding them for about seven seconds after you hit send, because that is the window where you inevitably discover you made a typo, or forgot something you wanted to say, or realize maybe the response you were about to give didn’t need to be given at all.
How many bad tweets, if we were given seven seconds to rethink them, would never see the light of day? How many fewer typos would we make? How much less identity-driven keening would be added to every tempest in a teapot, a new one of which crops up about every 10 minutes on the TL? Probably a lot.
The ability to edit tweets would be an irresponsible thing for Twitter to give in to. But, give us the breather window, and give us the undo button. When things are moving so fast, we can do a lot with seven seconds.