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“Muting” is a powerful social media tool that could be even better

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On Monday, Twitter (s twtr) announced a small update to its platform that has a big impact: the roll-out of a “mute” function, which allows users to block the tweets and retweets of another user without actually unfollowing them. Naturally, Twitter itself blew up with opinions about the feature — though it has been around for years via the company’s Tweetdeck platform — leading some to question why mute is so powerful.

I think that mute is an excellent social media tool that should be available across all platforms, but I also think it could become even more useful to improve social media experiences.

Muting is the easiest and most efficient way to cut through social media noise without severing social ties or ruffling any feathers. For Twitter, this could mean silencing the tweets and retweets of an overeager friend while still allowing him to DM you. On a more general social network like Facebook (s fb), which allows you to “Unfollow” timeline updates, it means silencing a particularly annoying relative who you can’t spurn with an “unfriend.”

With social media, we stay connected to more people than we care to hear from daily, but we may not want to sever that connection entirely. Muting users keeps the daily noise down by keeping unwanted voices out, making the overall experience of social media much better.

Different social media platforms have different policies for muting or blocking user conversations. On Twitter, muting completely removes a user’s tweets from your feed, but they can still send you a Direct Messages or a reply (which differs from the way the way a Block works.) On the other hand, Facebook allows you to unfollow others or block them from sending you event and game invites. But not all platforms have a way to mute users: for example, Instagram only has a block function that removes updates and new photos from the blocked person’s feed, and Pinterest doesn’t allow for muting users without unfollowing or blocking them.

I think all social media platforms should not only incorporate a muting feature, but that it should go even further. For example, imagine if you could mute a particular hashtag entirely — say to block a particular kind of photo on Instagram or a conversation on Twitter. Or there could be a temporary mute feature that silences users during a given time without blocking them permanently — anything from silencing a certain user during work mornings to silencing them for an entire election season. By creating new and precise ways to mute a user or conversation, the long-term experiences on social media sites could vastly improve.

Social media is constantly full of noise and unwanted updates, but sometimes it’s just not right to be impolite. Muting users has the potential to bridge that gap, and make it more tolerable for all of us.

4 Responses to ““Muting” is a powerful social media tool that could be even better”

  1. Greg Lloyd

    TweetBot (Mac, iOS, Android) has had a very good Mute feature for years. You can mute people, keywords, hashtags or clients (e.g. from the bad old days of FourSquare checkins).

    People, keywords, hashtags can be muted for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or forever. Very handy for muting events

  2. Ben Pickering

    Mute would be extremely powerful if the algorithms at work are smart enough to surface content from a “muted” friend when it is likely to be something of high interest. Otherwise, once muted that connection is never likely to be heard from again. That’s quite different from muting the TV or muting a phone call, where you still see or hear what’s happening and can re-engage at the appropriate time.

    • Roy Kissel

      Agreed. Betting that Twitter modifies mute/blocked to automatically notify users on a regular basis to remind them who they have on those lists. Plus, advertisers are going to despise this feature, and they bring in the $. Don’t see the point of the mute feature except for political correctness, i.e. not making people mad that you blocked them.