Minimize the noise on Twitter.
I’ve been on Twitter quite a while1 and have seen both my use, and the use of the platform in general shift over time. As more folks have joined the service, over the past few years it has become a major tool for political discussion and screaming. While I don’t follow anyone specifically for politics, it creeped into the timelines of folks I was following for other reasons. Over the years, Twitter has become used by companies and marketers to share their message, in some cases a bit more aggressively than I’d like.
But this isn’t just a post about politics and advertising… it’s about how the Twitter experience can be improved. You can become a Twitter power user by making use of three built-in features to refine what you see, focus on topics of interest, and help you have more meaningful conversations.
Use Twitter Lists for Topics of Interest
Twitter lists allow you to manually add someone to one or more lists based on any criteria of your choosing. What sort of lists might you create? I have a few lists for topics of interest such as photography, tech, and beer. I also have a list of key people whose tweets I most want to see.
You don’t have to follow someone to add them to a list, so this is a great way to see someone’s tweets occasionally (when you check the list) but without needing to follow them and have their tweets appear in your main timeline.
Once you have a list of folks, you can choose to either manually go check it out occasionally, or for a Twitter client that supports a multi-column view such as Tweetdeck or Tweetbot, you can set up a list in a column and use it much like you would the main timeline. To get started with Twitter Lists, click on Lists on the left side of the Twitter timeline, then you can use the link near the top to create a new List.
Mute Like the Twitter Power User You Are
You probably choose to follow someone based on knowing them through other means, or through a shared interest such as photography. Maybe they’re local and often tweet about things of interest in your area. But when you follow someone, you follow all of their tweets. Both the ones related to the reason you followed them, but also anything else they happen to share. There’s plenty of opportunity for topics that might anger or annoy you to creep in. And even if you aren’t upset, you might just want to filter out things that aren’t of interest.
Twitter offers a powerful filtering feature in the form of its Mute options. Using Mute, you can filter out words, phrases, @usernames, or #hashtags.
What can you mute? Pretty much anything you can think of. Personally, I’ve significantly increased the value I get out of Twitter by muting things such as:
- Names and @usernames of various politicians2
- Hashtags related to TV events I don’t care about
- The name of the disease causing a certain pandemic
- Names or hashtags for sporting events that aren’t of interest
In general, if you see something on Twitter, and it’s annoying you for being there, consider whether you might add a Mute filter to remove similar tweets from appearing in the future. When you’ve Muted something, as you browse your timeline, Tweets containing muted terms won’t appear at all. To you, it’s as if they don’t exist.
If you don’t want to mute a term forever, Twitter also gives you the option of muting something for seven or thirty days. This can be useful when there’s a hot news topic that you don’t care about, but it might contain a term or name that you’ll want to see after the news has passed.
Unlike Lists, where you can access the option from the main menu on the left side of the Twitter webpage, the mute settings are a bit hidden. From the main menu click on:
More ➡️ Settings & Privacy ➡️ Privacy and safety ➡️ Mute and block ➡️ Muted words
The plus (+) in the upper right is how you add a new term.
Disable Retweets Selectively
The third power tip is one I don’t use frequently, but I employ selectively to keep my Twitter timeline focused. Twitter allows you to disable retweets for a given account.
So let’s say you have someone you follow for their photography work, but they also have a habit of retweeting a bunch of unrelated memes that you don’t find interesting. You can disable retweets for that person, so the only thing you’ll see is their own tweets. You can only disable retweets for an account that you’re following.
To disable retweets for a given account, go to that person’s profile, click the … menu and choose Turn off retweets:
Turning off retweets can be another good way to clean up your Twitter timeline and improve your experience as a Twitter power user by eliminating unwanted tweets from interfering with the content you came to view. If you want to disable all retweets on the service, that’s not a feature that’s currently built into the interface, but some folks have discovered a way to do it using a special mute filter.
Overall, the use of lists, mute filters, and disabling retweets can make a big impact if you want to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of your Twitter timeline. Drop a comment below if you have other suggestions on how to become a Twitter power user and get the most out of your time on the service. And why not follow me on Twitter if you aren’t already?
Make Twitter more useful by reducing clutter and unwanted noise. Here are three built-in features that you can use.https://t.co/g5krmUxMVf
— Aaron Hockley (@ahockley) March 2, 2021