Shhhhhhh! Twitter mute feature silences annoying tweets

You know those Twitter users: they clog your feed with non-stop commentary about the weather, what they ate for dinner, how much politicians annoy them or their March Madness bracket.

You don’t want to unfollow them, because they do tweet some of the best jokes in the Twittersphere, and are the first to know when a new restaurant opens up and will tweet about the best dishes on the menu.

But sometimes, you want them to shut up, just for a little while.

Now you can.  Twitter on Monday announced it is preparing to roll out a “mute” feature that will let you silence certain users in your feed, on both the Twitter desktop platform and the iPhone and Android apps. It’s similar to hiding a friend’s posts on Facebook — making your contact go away for a little while but not defriending them.

Twitter said in a blog post: “Mute gives you even more control over the content you see on Twitter by letting you remove a user’s content from key parts of your Twitter experience.

“Muting a user on Twitter means their Tweets and Retweets will no longer be visible in your home timeline, and you will no longer receive push or SMS notifications from that user. The muted user will still be able to fave, reply to, and retweet your Tweets; you just won’t see any of that activity in your timeline.”

And, best of all, they won’t have a clue that you muted them. No hurt feelings.

But the mute feature may also suggest there are a lot of Twitter users who aren’t using Twitter effectively. On Twitter, you choose to follow who you want to hear from; keeping Twitter feeds selective based on a user’s interest and needs — which could change by the month or day — is crucial. Otherwise, your feed becomes a clogged mess and you can’t begin to keep up with the hodgepodge of information.

And as Slate points out, Twitter is also intended as a place of incidental discovery — stumbling upon information and news you may not have found otherwise through the power of random online connections. Start muting people, and you may miss out on the spontaneous discoveries that makes Twitter, Twitter.

But Twitter’s mute feature is also consistent with the many other silencing features on social media — not just Facebook’s option to hide a feed, but Gmail’s option to mute email threads, and Flipboard, a digital magazine app that aggregates your social media accounts, offers a mute feature. Also, Tweetdeck or Tweetbot users have for years been able to mute accounts they follow.

Maybe we’re all in need of a little more quiet than our social media habits have afforded us.

Photo: A user checks a Twitter feed on a smartphone in this arranged photograph taken in London, U.K., on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013.  Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (192 Posts)

Heather Somerville reports on consumer affairs, retail and technology for the Bay Area News Group. She lives in San Francisco, where she enjoys rock climbing, yoga and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge.