Friday, September 2nd, 2022

How to make Twitter fun again

Sometimes Twitter can get a bit much. Insults, hate and pet conspiracy theories drown out the enjoyable content. It isn’t the interesting accounts aren’t posting, it’s just they’re being shouted down by algorithms. Slowly you get drawn down the rabbit hole and your mood changes

Twitter isn’t fun anymore.

It’s easy to dismiss these reactions as “woke” or claim they’ve little to do with “mental health”. Truth is, social media is about engagement, and it can leave you feeling angry or helpless after the trolls have finished with you.

Maybe you want to take a break. You’ll delete Twitter from your phone or change your password to nonsense, hopeful you can recover it later. Or you might reach a point where you want to commit “Twittercide” and delete your account completely. 

My focus has been on avoiding this point. Twitter can be a positive and exciting place to be, so why shut it out completely for the sake of idiots? Proactively managing your experience will calm the noise down and let you focus on what you’re interested in.

Here’s how I manage my feed:

1. Swap the Twitter timeline from “Home” to “Latest”

By default, Twitter uses an algorithm that promotes high engaging content in your feed. This gives divisive content a boost and makes it more likely you’ll see it. You can turn this off.

Top right on the feed is an icon that looks like a four point star with 2 crosses beside it. Tap this and select “Latest”. Now you’ll see Tweets as they happen, not in the order Twitter decides.

Screenshot of Twitter web client with the option open to control whether you see latest tweets, or whatever the Twitter algorithm chooses.

2. Twitter Lists

It’s easy to lose the accounts you enjoy or engage with in the mire. Instead of hoping to see their content, add them to a list. When you look at a list it will only show tweets from its members. 

For example, I keep a list of female photographers, another of joke accounts, one of all the people I like to engage with regularly. Now and then I’ll scroll through a list to see great photography, or because I need a smile.

Screen shot of the Twitter web client showing some of the lists I maintain to keep up with accounts I don't follow

Another advantage of lists is you don’t have to follow someone, but you can still access their content. This can be useful as Twitter will use who you follow to massage its timeline and promotion algorithms.

3. Mute.

Muting removes tweets from your timeline that contain specific words or hashtags. It can be a quick way to quieten down the noise if a hot topic has surged, or you have little interest in it. 

You can also mute an account. It’s less drastic than blocking and doesn’t signal to Twitter the account is a problem. There is an argument if you’ve muted someone you might as well unfollow them, only I don’t think this always holds true. Sometimes I’ll mute someone for a few days because they had a bee in their bonnet about a specific issue, but otherwise what they share is engaging.

4. Unfollow.

If someone is being a consistent pain, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t unfollow them. Sometimes I think we get hooked on our follower counts and forget this is an option.

However, there’s a second part to this, which is to remove them as a follower. In the web app go to their profile, click on the three dots and select “Remove this follower”. Once they’re removed, it’s less likely they will see your content and interact with it. Also, it seems to tweak the algorithm and you will no longer be recommended to their followers.

5. Block.

The nuclear option is to block someone. This removes them from your feed, removes all likes and retweets, and erases them from your twitter life.

Blocking isn’t only for people you follow(ed). Proactively blocking accounts stops them from popping up in your feed by mistake.

6. Change Location.

Twitter likes to bombard you with “trends” and “accounts to follow”. From time to time, when trends get a bit “shouty”, I’ll change my location to a country whose script I don’t recognize (Thailand is a favorite).

It’s a crude method, but it seems to work.

7. Use Tweetdeck.

Tweetdeck is something Twitter offers to its “power users”. It lets you set up columns that show specific hashtags, or just the tweets from people in a specific list. Instead of having to fiddle with “advanced search”, you set up a column and it’s there waiting every time you use it.

Screenshot of Tweetdeck with various columns showing posts I might enjoy

It only works on a web browser, and you have to click on images to view them. However, I prefer it when all I want to do is enjoy photography and tune out the screaming you’ll find on your timeline.

A word of caution: Tweetdeck only shows a limited number of Tweets in each column. I found I was missing out on some interesting accounts because of time-zone differences. This meant their tweets fell into a “deadzone” too far down to ever appear. I solved it by adding them to a list (see above).

Let’s Make Twitter Fun Again

Twitter is a fun, informative and engaging social network. It has its problems, and I know it contributes to some people’s mental health issues. I’ve proactively removed unwelcome content from my timeline and manage how I track the accounts I enjoy. It’s an evolving process, and sometimes I have to make adjustments.

I hope by sharing it you’ll make Twitter fun again.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.