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Embracing the silence: Here is how you need to use Twitter's mute button


Look, I don’t want to tell you how to live, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do certain things. No one should buy smooth peanut butter over crunchy. It’s morally wrong to use the exit lane to speed up and cut back into traffic. If there are multiple empty treadmills in a row, do not take the one next to a stranger.

And if you’re going to use the Twitter mute button, do it right.

Twitter only just introduced what may be one of its most powerful tools yet. The mute button is the equivalent of a passive aggressive block: You can silence another Twitter user without their knowledge. You don’t have to go through the angst and potential fallout of a block, or even the tamer unfollow. All you have to do… is mute.

With all this new and untold power in your hands, you might feel overwhelmed, paralyzed by the possibilities of a better Twitter feed. Then consider this a briefer on the five types who deserve the mute:

The guy who asks for an RT

Also known as the guy who puts “I follow back” in his Twitter bio. This guy is desperate; this is the guy who does dirty, horrible, disgusting things to get verified. He’s probably bought followers before, something he admits to you after three moscow mules when you run into him at some conference. He only knows you through Twitter, or in some other paper thin, digital-only way. When he tells you said secret, he whispers it like he’s the one who leaked the Solange-Jay Z video. Proudly, dirtily.

His tweets often include #CanIGetAnRT. When you see this, you think, “No. No you may not get an RT.”

He is harmless, and his pride might be seriously wounded were you to unfollow him, and he’s certainly not worth being blocked.

Mute him.

The desperate brand

For some reason you started following [insert almost any brand here]. Maybe there was a contest, or your sister works there, or you work there. Maybe one week, the brand tweeted something kind of funny.

But since then, it’s all been downhill. The jokes are pathetic at best, the pop culture references always just too slow. And because so many of us follow way, way, way more brands than we would like to admit, going through and unfollowing them all sounds like a good way to spend your inaugural day in hell.

Mute that noise.

The bot

You weren’t sure it was a bot. Once you were sure it was a bot, you weren't sure if it would be a funny bot, you know… a @Horse_ebooks-type bot.

And you played that guessing game for way too long. Mute the (not funny) bots. Mute them all.

The troll (bully)

This one is obvious. For some reason, this person you’re either tied to or not tied to has decided to troll you. Maybe you’re a writer, and you have opinions sometimes. Troll target. Maybe you were on Catfish once. Mega troll target. Maybe your ex has a little, horrible sister. Troll city.

You don’t want to give in and issue the block, letting the troll know he or she got into your head, and an unfollow won’t solve your problems.

Mute ‘em. Gotta mute ‘em all.

The troll (attention seeker)

The other variety of troll must also be muted. If for some reason, during your time on Twitter, you’ve accrued a collection of attention-seeking types you follow (it happens, general Internet obsessives and writers alike will get this), then you have a variety of desperate tweets. Teens who need Lil B's attention; teens who pretend to be giving away money; teens who pretend to be terrorists. All kinds (... of teens)! 

Again, sure, you could go through and unfollow. Or just mute that ish.

The family member

You can’t unfollow your mom. You can’t block you mom.

You can mute your mom.

The inconsistent work hookup

That PR lady or colleague who every 10th email actually says something interesting or helpful… that person tweets nonstop. These tweets are often RTs with little smileys or phrases like “Amen, sister!” The links. Oh god, the links. For the love of everything good in this world, the woman lives on links. Her feed is a never-ending showcase of links to things other people have said or written; she is incapable of originality!

But that every 10th email is a thing to be cherished, and her pointless Twitter existence isn’t worth losing it.

Mute that noise.

The actual hookup

Yep, he’s hot. Yep, he’s on Twitter. Yep, he has absolutely nothing of value to say (cool millionth Instagram of your sandwich, bro). I’d say don’t mute him if you’re worried about being subtweeted but there’s nothing subtle about this one. Mute him, in the interest of still being able to tolerate him in person.

The fan 

For some reason unbeknowst to you, someone out there really, really likes your tweets. You are consistently swimming in a sea of Twitter love from this person: RTs, favs, mentions. Lots of mentions. Somewhere alone the line, the unabated adoration got to you; maybe it was after a bad date and you came home to a fav of something mildly funny you tweeted. Perhaps it was that hilarious and well-timed pop culture reference you made that no one else even acknowledged; your fan RTed it! And so you followed back. 

And you immediately knew it was a big mistake, because this person is crazy town. 

Hit mute. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Hit. Mute. 

Wha... what's that?


That, is the sweet, sweet sound of silence.

Photo by phasefire/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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