Does it make sense to keep all of your old social posts on your profile in perpetuity, or would we better off taking a Snapchat-like, ephemeral approach to our updates, where everything is automatically erased after a certain period?

This has long been a debate among social media communities, particularly as more celebrities and other high-profile users have had their careers derailed due to past comments that they’ve shared in social apps.

Because we’ve all said and done dumb stuff that we probably don’t need to keep around forever. So it’d be better, then, to have it removed after a certain period, with your posts auto-erasing at some threshold.

Right?

Evidently, according to a new poll conducted by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri, that is not the consensus.

Threads archive

Mosseri suggested the concept amid a visit to Korea, where he noted that many people are using Threads “to share more raw and authentic content”. Which prompted Mosseri to consider the concept, though he’s also noted in the past that he believes auto-deleting social posts, on Threads in particular, should be an option, after 30 or 90 days.

There are a few things to consider within this. For one, some people like to have their social posts as a sort of record of history, with their past updates serving as reminders of different points in time.

Which, of course, Meta would well know, given that it keeps pushing “On this day” reminders on Facebook, which have proven to be a winner for engagement.

On that front alone, it’s somewhat surprising to see Mosseri considering this, though Threads is very different from FB in this respect.

It’s also interesting to consider from a broader trends perspective, in that fewer people are now sharing personal updates in social apps, reducing the amount of direct engagement and interaction in-stream.

Indeed, in January last year, Meta reported that Facebook usage was on the rise, due to the increase in AI-recommended content, which has led to more people spending more time watching videos in the app. But at the same time, creation and engagement were in decline, with fewer people posting to both Facebook and Instagram than they have in the past.

That’s particularly true among younger audiences, and likely still remains the case, and Meta knows that it needs this cohort to remain active in its apps, or it could more easily lose out to other entertainment-based networks.

So why are people sharing fewer personal updates?

Well, at the same time, more and more people have been sharing updates within private group chats, with the trend potentially reflecting the concern that what you post on social is there forever, and can come back to haunt you at some stage.

So in effect, people are already self-censoring to a degree, but rather than deleting their old posts, they’re just not posting at all, opting instead to keep their thoughts and opinions within the confines of more private online spaces.

Would an auto-delete option change that behavior, and would social media users feel more comfortable sharing their opinions once again if they knew that they wouldn’t be logged in the internet’s forever memory?

That’s likely the angle that Mosseri’s considering, in trying to find a systematic solution to a human problem. And maybe, if Threads did just implement such a system, that would lead to more sharing, but as per the above poll, it may not be a perceptually popular addition.

Either way, it’s an interesting consideration, and there is some merit, whether you agree or not, to implementing an auto-delete functionality. It may not be ideal for everyone, but it’s the overall usage trend that Meta’s looking to shift, and in that sense, it could actually be of benefit. Whether we realize it or not.

It’ll be interesting to see if Mosseri continues to explore the option, or if this poll is enough to shut it down as a potential project.