The discovery of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s old tweets lit up Twitter over the weekend almost as much as the Nazi getting punched. From his obsession with Dippin’ Dots to his cosplay fandom, the man’s tweets are a treasure trove of self-owns.
Spicer isn’t the first person to be mocked for his bad old tweets — see conservative star Tomi Lahren’s college tweets, or the Portland police department’s appreciation for “cold steel of gun metal” — and he won’t be the last, if you follow our handy guide to digging up people’s dumbest tweets.
Your main tool will be the Twitter advanced search. It isn’t easy to get to this page from the Twitter homepage or on the app, so it’s best to bookmark the URL.
On this page, you’ll see a category for “People.” Type the username of the person whose day you’re trying to ruin in the “From these accounts” box; that limits your search to just their tweets.
From there, it’s up to you how to proceed.
For the dedicated bad tweet detective, it’s wise to set the date parameters. For example, this all-time great from Sen. Marco Rubio would have been hard to find with search terms, and otherwise would be lost to the ages:
Maybe its just me , but could www.hulu.com be the single most important website in the history of the world? Its lavenous!!!
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 31, 2009
Further down the page you’ll see a section for dates; clicking the blank box brings up the calendar, then click the month and year at the top to expand the view to the whole year, and again to navigate back to previous years.
You’ll find the best worst tweets are likely to happen between 2006 and 2013; a good starting point is to search for tweets from the person up until about 2012. Early Twitter adopters are some of the best sources for these (you can see when someone joined Twitter on their profile page). It was a simpler, much more earnest time.
6:19 AM. Back from the gym already. Nice way to start the week.
— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) February 2, 2009
A time when you could freestyle without shame.
@reihansalam Luv da police/Hug da police/we need em cause we bleedin from these bangers in the street/that's my attitude/show cops gratitude
— Eli Lake (@EliLake) May 15, 2009
A time when no one would judge you for asking for help.
How do I get twitterific on the iphone to put the pix right side up? http://twitpic.com/3rhl
— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) July 12, 2008
Twitter also provides a helpful tool for finding somebody’s first tweet:
— Mario Aguilar (@mariojoze) March 9, 2009
If you know what you’re looking for — say, you suspect that a Trump spokesperson might possibly have tweeted something offensive in the past — you can enter search terms or phrases under the “Words” category. To get you started, here are some suggestions:
Actually most locker banter is just guys boasting about not paying taxes, praising dictators, accusing Cruz's dad of killing JFK, the usual
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) October 7, 2016
“How do I”
A "Draining" Sat. AM: I give up--how do I unclog a toilet my 4yr old filled w/ (blank) & ?? Tried plunging, Drano snake, coat hanger...
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) February 2, 2013
Brands, particularly airlines
.@United: I actually like you. I fly you constantly & defend you often. Your wifi? Unreliable, slow, expensive. Let me buy 1 hour again!
— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) July 22, 2015
Staying at hotel, forgot to pack gym shorts. Using hotel fitness center in boxers is totally unacceptable, right?
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) October 24, 2013
Puerile, childish words like “toilet,” “pee,” “cum”
Just wondering: have you tweeted from the toilet?
— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) July 30, 2008
Political predictions that didn’t pan out
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) December 30, 2015
Btw if we're laying down our markers, here's mine: I believe Mitt Romney will be renominated.
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) October 6, 2014
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) March 31, 2014
Hint: On your results page, you’ll notice the search appears in the top search bar with all the modifiers, like “from:(username) and until:(date),” which you can change to tinker with your search without doing a whole new search.
If you don’t have a specific target in mind but want to own your friends, once you’ve done a search you can hit “more” and select “People I follow.”
Twitter user @vrunt suggests that if you find something weird, “keep mining.” As with Spicer’s Dippin’ Dots tweets, you can often identify a weird obsession, something they tweet about way too much that reveals their soul, or simply a joke/comment they feel the need to make several times:
Please remember to exercise caution and kindness when digging up Twitter dirt on your enemies. More than anything, the Twitter advanced search serves as a humbling reminder of how everyone’s tweets were mostly excruciatingly earnest and unfunny until about 2014, and that there but for the grace of God go we:
Can we eat an entire large order of Five Guys fries? YES WE CAN. And by 'we' I mean me
— bitch it's saturday (@libbycwatson) March 23, 2013
Starbucks is doing very well at music today: Best Coast and The Cure. Good job Starbucks Leamington.
— bitch it's saturday (@libbycwatson) June 20, 2013
If you want to defend yourself from this treatment, there are tools that allow you to delete all your tweets, but the best defence is simple: never, under any circumstances, tweet.