Removing Negativity

7 minutes, 10 links


Updated January 28, 2020
Using Twitter

Alongside Twitter’s hallways of positivity and endless learning are alleyways of negativity, ad hominem attacks, and pile-ons. Following people who engage in these activities, or magnify people who do, can leave your feed barren of knowledge and laden with toxicity.

Liberally remove people from your Twitter experience who attack you or others personally or are overly negative or critical of others work.

Update Who You Follow

Unfollow. Stop following individuals who are frequently negative or tweet about subjects you find irritating or non-productive. Reserve your attention for individuals whose tweets you find interesting, funny, or informative.

  • If you’re following the wrong people, your timeline can become polluted. Don’t underestimate how negativity can trickle into your mind, inform your thinking, and generate low-level anxiety. If your feed is filled with gloom and cynicism, remove the likely culprits—news accounts that lean on dramatization for clicks and pessimists who bring everyone down are a good start.

Audit your list. Regularly prune your list. You can do this on the fly when you notice someone you follow who makes arguments in bad faith, attacks others, or is generally a source of negativity. Unfollow them. Additionally, in regular intervals (every few months), sit down and shave your list manually or with tools like Tokimeki Unfollow.

De-follow. This is a lesser known hackstrategy that doesn’t have much of a use case. If you block and unblock someone, they no longer follow you. If someone is unhelpful in your replies or negatively quote-tweets (a retweet with a comment) you with negativity, the de-follow is a low-conflict way to get them to stop following you, making it more difficult for them to see your tweets in their timeline, without the risks of keeping them blocked.

Improve Your Feed

Turn off retweets. Seeing other people’s retweets can help you discover new people and ideas. However, not everyone is discerning with what they RT, and engagement on negative tweets is often high. (This is part of the reason you see the phrase, “RTs are not endorsements” in a lot of bios.) This can fill your feed with unwelcome content. If you find this to be a continuous issue, turn off retweets on Twitter.

  • How to do it: Go to someone’s profile, navigate to the setting menu above their bio, and select “Turn off Retweets.”
  • Twitter notes that “It is not possible to turn off ALL Retweets from ALL accounts.” This is not the case. To turn off retweets for everyone, follow Luca Hammer’s tip and enter “RT @” as a muted phrase under the advanced muting options field.

Mute keywords. Often, you may not want to block individuals but are tired of hearing about a specific subject or certain keywords that are tied to a broader discussion. In these cases, you can mute keywords or hashtags. This can also be helpful during live events where your feed may be cluttered with keywords like “Game of Thrones” and “#GoT” or or “MMVAS” and “#MMVAs,” and all you’re there for is to reply to C++ threads. Go to Setting → Content preferences → Muted → Muted words, to silence certain words from your timeline.

Block, Don’t Mute

While muting caustic individuals can help you avoid negativity, if they interact with your tweets on a regular basis, their negativity is viewed by your followers and can make your mentions a negative space.

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Blocking jerks is a service to the world. When you allow people to be jerks in your Twitter threads, you’re not just unnecessarily subjecting yourself to vitriol, you’re subjecting all your followers to it as well. Which makes their lives a little more unpleasant.Julia Galef*, co-founder, Center for Applied Rationality

Here’s how to block someone:

People are not notified when you block them. However, if they navigate to your Twitter profile, they will be unable to see your tweets and instead see a message that reads, “You are blocked from following @username and viewing @username’s Tweets.”

caution Please note that blocking someone comes with some risk and and the following can ensue:

  • They may take a screen capture your profile, showing they were blocked by you, and announce this to your followers generally in an unkind manner.

  • They will still be able to access your tweets by accessing your profile while logged out of their account or using a different account.

  • In some cases, blocking may lead to escalation with people attempting to contact you through other social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram), email, or through a different Twitter account.

  • Muting can be a good option for people who you generally like but whose tweets you may not enjoy.

Here’s how to mute someone (Twitter also offers some advanced muting options:

Get Perspective

What you see in your timeline is a microcosm of reality. Remember, Twitter as a whole, but especially your corner of Twitter, isn’t reflective of the world. Among lots of other interesting data collected by Pew in 2018, the research center found: “The 10% of users who are most active in terms of tweeting are responsible for 80% of all tweets created by U.S. users.” This is a version of reality where a few voices—usually negative ones—are amplified and the majority of people and opinions are lost in the noise.

That might sound a lot like the rest of life, and like the rest of life, making Twitter better is all about exposing yourself to opinions and perspectives that make you more well-rounded and empathetic, recognizing which opinions will do nothing of the kind, and carving out a supportive community of people who share your interests, passions, and questions.

Remember that adding your own voice to the mix has the potential to make other people’s experience of the medium better. Tweet the kind of tweet that you want to see.

I don’t think there’s really a secret to getting stuff out of Twitter. It’s like learning any other skill: start yesterday, do it a lot, pay attention to what you’re doing and seek to improve, let others influence you, and have fun! I’d say the same thing about writing, painting, and coding too.Sahil Lavingia (@shl), founder and CEO, Gumroad*

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