Tweaks to Improve your Twitter Usage
Over the past few months, I’ve put some thought into tweaking my Twitter usage to better align it with how I’d like to use social media. I’ve never felt particularly “addicted” to or maligned by Twitter. However, left unchecked, it can easily become a time sync that leaves you in a sour mood.
I like Twitter. It’s the social network I’m on the most, and like many Twitter users, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it’s an amazing method for communicating and discovering novel ideas. On the other hand, it can easily become an outrage-amplifying echo chamber.
I’ve made these usage tweaks over the past couple months, and have found Twitter to be a more enjoyable place as a result.
1. 🔇 Use Mutes Liberally
Of any of these tweaks, using mutes has had the largest impact on the quality of my timeline. Twitter has 2 types of mutes, and you should use them both.
The first type of mute is Account Mutes. If you mute an account, you won’t see that person’s Tweets in your timeline — even if someone you follow retweets or quotes a tweet of that muted account.
There are a couple accounts (that I don’t follow) which would periodically show up in my feed for posting controversial or inflammatory content. Muting those accounts makes them go away. You can also mute the accounts of “promoted” (ad) Tweets to reduce another class of spam.
I prefer account mutes to blocks for the following reason: Twitter sends a notification to the person when you block them.
The second type of mute is Word Mutes (read more here). You can mute words or phrases. This is especially useful for trending events or subjects that you find annoying. Not interested in the World Cup? Mute “World Cup”. Not interested in Trump drama? Mute “Trump”. You can mute phrases/hashtags for an interval of time as well, which can be useful for time-limited mutes for events or political blowups.
To be clear, muting phrases is a form of self-censorship. However, I’m willing to make that tradeoff. Twitter isn’t (nor should it be) my sole source of news, so I view mutes as a curation tool, rather than a total head-in-the-sand filter.
People like to tweet about a large variety of topics — it’s their prerogative to so. However, there are some topics that I really have gotten tired of seeing in my timeline. So I mute them.
2. 🗓 Use Buffer to Schedule Tweets
Buffer is a good way to tweak how you approach publishing Tweets. Buffer allows you to queue Tweets (up to a “buffer” size of 10 for free accounts), which are then posted on a schedule.
It might seem a bit artificial or self-aggrandizing to schedule one’s tweets, but I’ve found it to be worthwhile. I often think of things to tweet in bursts, and I don’t like to post more than one at a time to avoid spamming my followers’ feeds. As a result, I’d often forget tweet ideas or expend mental energy trying to remember to tweet something later on.
Buffer is also nice because it gives you a time window between when you write a Tweet and when it gets posted. This gives you time to think about what you’ve written, revise wording, and delete Tweets before they’ve been published — if necessary.
Buffer also can make Twitter an entirely “write-only” medium. For a couple weeks last month, I deleted Twitter off my phone but kept the Buffer app. I could Tweet stuff out, but not consume my timeline.
3. 👋 Unfollow Judiciously
Life’s too short to be (persistently) annoyed by someone you follow on Twitter.
Of course, there’s a distinction between someone who you disagree with and someone how posts low-quality or troll-y Tweets. I have much more patience for the former than I do the latter.
I’ve noticed that I have a sense for how many times in recent memory a person has posted something that has annoyed me. If I start noticing that an account has annoyed me, I reflexively unfollow it. The timeline moves on.
4. 🗑 Periodically Purge Accounts You Follow
I follow a lot of people on Twitter. I try not to let it go over 1,000 accounts, but it’s gotten almost up to 1,100 a couple of times.
Every once-in-a-while, I decide “enough!” and do a purge. My selection criteria are generally the following:
- Do I remember who this person is?
- Has this person posted something interesting in their last 10 Tweets?
Recently, I’ve also started to curate a more diverse set of accounts I follow, so if I’m on the fence about a particular account, I take into consideration the makeup of my list of followers and prune accounts more sparingly of groups that are underrepresented in the people I follow.
5. 🔄 Selectively Disable Retweets
Twitter allows you to disable seeing retweets of particular accounts. If you go to the account page of someone you follow, you can click on the options menu and “Turn off Retweets”.
This allows you to follow people who you may find interesting personally, but who retweet things you find uninteresting or annoying. You can still follow the person for their perspective, without having to put up with the content they retweet.
6. ✨ Check out the “Refined Twitter” Chrome Extension
Refined Twitter (made by Sindre Sorhus) is a Chrome Extension that provides a fantastic set of tweaks to the Twitter desktop interface. Of note, it: - Hides “Liked” tweets in your timeline (Tweets by accounts you don’t follow that were liked by accounts that you do follow) - Adds Markdown formatting to tweets (with syntax highlighting!) - Removes UI clutter from the sidebars
I really can’t recommend this extension enough. I’ve never been one to use 3rd-party Twitter clients, so this really is the happy medium for me. It provides UI tweaks that remove some of Twitter’s more annoying features while retaining all of the first-party Twitter features.
7. ✋ Stop Reading After “In Case You Missed It”
It’s a matter of personal preference, but I find that the suggested Tweets I get in the In Case You Missed It box tend to be a decently representative sample of the “good” tweets in my timeline over the past few hours.
If I’m just trying to kill a few minutes on my phone, I’ve made it a habit to quit the Twitter app when I get to the bottom of this recommended tweets list. The benefit is, I get my “fix” of news and updates with a natural end. The temptation to continue scanning the infinite scroll of the Twitter feed is curtailed.
Twitter is what you make of it. Its timeline is a game of continuous curation. Use the tools at your disposal to filter out junk so that interesting, novel tweets don’t get lost in the noise. 🐦