Twitter has gotten a lot of flak for its failure to address rampant harassment taking place on its platform. The primary tool Twitter offers for dealing with unwanted contact, the block, is quite flawed, in that it lets a harasser know he or she's been blocked, which often provokes further abuse. For that reason, "mute" is sometimes a preferable method of self-defense. And it has the added benefit of being able to quiet down aggressive marketers, or tune out a friend without the cruelty of the unfollow.
It's not perfect—and fed-up Twitter users have written extensively about why—but it's better than nothing. And it's better than block.
But even if we don't spend our days on Twitter engaging in campaigns of targeted harassment, I imagine we're all curious about who's keeping us on silent. So when prominent botmaker Darius Kazemi dropped a link Saturday morning to his new tool that shows who's muted you, everyone clicked.
Go ahead. Click it. We'll wait.
Look, if you're familiar with Kazemi's work or you read his tweets at all, you know this isn't the sort of thing he goes in for. In fact, he was surprised so many of his followers clicked it.Yeah, it's just a silly, one-off joke, but it's a good one: It speaks to our anxiety about who's paying attention to the little rocks we toss into the pond of social media—or who's not.
Some people probably clicked because they knew it was a joke, and wanted to see the punchline. Maybe some thought it couldn't be a joke, since Kazemi waited until April 2 to post it.
But there had to be some people who were genuinely curious or fearful to see whether any of their friends had secretly tuned them out. Hopefully this was a good reminder to chill out a little bit.
An actual tool of this sort, if it were possible using the APIs Twitter provides, would defeat the entire purpose of the mute function—a no-drama way to determine what's in your Twitter feed.
Illustration by Tiffany Pai