We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a picture of your friend’s new baby or your Aunt’s incessant updates about the weather in smalltown America, there are certain people in your social-media feeds that you’d like to just tune out for a bit (even just temporarily).
Social networks seem to be listening and have been rolling out features to help users regain a little bit of control of their social feeds without ruffling the feathers of any friends. The problem is each network has its own definition of tuning out someone, not to mention its own terminology.
To help you out, I combed some of the most popular social networks and muted/blocked/ignored/unfollowed everyone and everything I could. For a quick look, see our chart below. But we also have step-by-step pictures and an easy-to-follow guide for each network to make it easy to mute away.
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Privacy has been a longstanding concern for Facebook users, so it’s not surprising that the social giant has some of the most developed (and complex) tune-out methods in the market.
Friends: On Facebook, where digital friendship carries more weight than, say, following someone on Twitter or liking a user on Instagram, it’s hard to ignore those invites from your significant other’s family members or the kid you used to sit next to in fourth grade. But if you actually don’t care about what they have to say, the easiest step is to just unfollow them.
From your newsfeed, click the “v” on the top right corner of the story they posted. In the drop-down menu, select “Unfollow.” Voilá: their updates won’t appear in your news feed, but they will still be able to like or comment on your photos and updates. (The guide on how to use lists to restrict people from seeing all your updates will have to wait for another day).
If you want to follow somebody again, go to their profile (they’ll still appear in your friends list) and click on the “Follow” button again, which is on the bottom right of the cover photo and to the left of the message button. You can also unfollow them this same way.
Invites: Maybe a friend has worthy status updates but a serious addiction to Candy Crush: you can block individuals from sending you invites to events or apps or games. If you want to block someone from sending a game invite, go to the Games page (or events, etc.) and click on invites. Click on the X to hide an invite, which will prompt a message asking if you want to block all invites from that person or all invites from the app/game. Depending on how annoying the friend is, I’d at least block the game and sometimes the person.
Ads: Unless you’re using an ad blocker, there’s no way to block Facebook ads from showing up in your newsfeed. However you can click on the “v” arrow on the ad to hide ones from that company in the future.
Pages/Links: Say you hate seeing articles from the Onion or Fox News in your feed. You can block the news source without unfollowing or blocking your friend for posting updates from those sources. When someone posts a link, click on the “v” arrow, which triggers a drop-down menu. There should be an option to “Hide all from website.com,” which will clear those links out of your newsfeed. If you have liked a page, but don’t want to receive updates from it, you can also unfollow a page (like you do a friend). If you unfollow a page, you’re still listed as liking it and can return to it any time to follow it again.
Blocking/unblocking: Facebook made it really easy to see what content you have blocked (not unfollowed) from your feed. When you open up Facebook on the desktop, in the left column, it lists New Feed, Messages, Events, etc. If you hover your mouse over News Feed, on the left side a gear icon pops up. Click on the gear, then “edit settings” for a quick list of who you have blocked from your news feed, apps or pages. You can also get to this list by going to settings (from the top right menu on the homepage) and navigating to blocking.
Google’s approach to social networking makes it a little harder to control the noise, mostly because its interpretation of the word “mute” doesn’t match anyone else’s. According to the Google Plus help page, “muting”:
- Disables notifications from this person or page. For example, you’ll no longer get a notification when they share a post with you or comment on your posts.
- Keeps their updates in your stream or when you visit their profile/page.
Muting a person: There are two ways to mute someone on Google Plus: from their profile pages and from your news feed. On their profile page, click on the “v” arrow below their profile photo (shown above) and click mute. You’ll get a dialog box about what muting means to remind you of its rather strange definition. To unmute someone, visit their profile and follow the same steps.
Muting a post: If you don’t want to see a story or receive notifications from it, you can also just mute it from your stream without muting the entire person. (Again, muting a person only disables notifications, not what they post, so you’ll still see their activity in your stream). Click on the “v” icon and select “mute post.” You’ll have an option to undo it right away. Once that notification disappears, if you want to unmute a post, go back to the source’s profile where it will be still show up with a red “Muted” next to its time stamp. Click on the “v” (which appears when you hover over the post) to select unmute. Muting a post is a good way to clear some stories out of your stream that you have no interest in seeing anymore while still seeing everything else that person posts.
How to not see someone’s updates: There’s no easy way on Google Plus to keep someone in your circles without accepting the burden of all of their updates in your stream, because its mute feature is only limited to notifications. There is a small workaround though if you’re looking to keep an extended relative from cluttering your feed.
To keep someone in your circles but out of your home stream, create a new circle called “Muted” (or whatever term you prefer) and add that person to it. From your home stream, click on the more button and select that circle name. Make sure the notifications (symbolized by the bell) are turned off. Click the gear button on its right and uncheck “Show posts in my home stream”. For this to be effective though, you have to make sure your great Aunt is only in the muted circle and not also in your extended family circle.
Twitter has had a “mute” function for a while through its Tweetdeck platform, but it only recently launched it for the website in May. If you just want fewer tweets in your timeline, another option is to “turn off retweets” from someone you follow.
Mute: You can mute someone from two places: your feed or their profile page. Muting on Twitter means you will remain a follower of that person and they will be able to see your tweets, reply to them, etc. If someone is going on a tweetstorm or live-tweeting a sporting event you don’t care about, you can just hit the mute button. (Just don’t forget to unmute them if you care about what they say other times of the day).
In your Twitter feed, click on the “More” button on the bottom right of a tweet and select the option to mute the the user. If you want to unmute that person, click on the prompt at the top of your feed (if it’s still there) or visit that person’s page.
On their profile page, click on the icon resembling a gear next to where it shows “following.” From there, you can mute a user. If you’re looking to cut down on the general noise from a user, another good option is to “Turn off retweets” that way you only see what they tweet out personally.
Block: If you need something a little stronger than muting, for instance, if a person won’t stop mentioning you or replying to your tweets, then Twitter does have a block option. Click on the “More” option from their tweets in your feed or the gear icon on their profile page and select the “Block” option from the drop-down menu. The only way to unblock someone is to revisit their profile page and choose the “Unblock” option instead.
Despite the fact that it is owned by Facebook, Instagram’s “Ignore” options aren’t as well developed.
Ignore: There’s no way to limit someone’s posts in your Instagram feed, except for wholesale unfollowing or blocking. However, you can ignore messages within Instagram Direct. Tap on mailbox icon and open a message from that user. Tap the icon that looks like three dots (bottom right of the post on iPhones or top right on Androids) and select the “ignore” button. That user will no longer be able to send posts to you, but will still show up in your feed.
To unignore that person, go to their profile and click on the arrow button on the top right of their profile page. There should be an “unignore” option in the drop-down menu. Unfortunately, this was buggy when I tried it out, so if you’re not getting the “unignore” option in that drop down menu, just unfollow then refollow that person to reset it.
Block: Both unfollowing and blocking will stop their photos from coming into your feed, but blocking makes it so that person can’t follow you or see your photos. To block someone, open their profile page either by tapping on their name above a photo or clicking on the explore tab and searching for their username. Tap the arrow on the top right of their profile and select “Block” from the drop-down menu. Repeat the same steps if you need to unblock someone.
Between Pulse, contacts and connections, there are many people and things you can control to limit people’s interactions in your newsfeed.
Pulse: Pulse is LinkedIn’s news arm, which lets you follow news outlets or people and have their updates show up in your home page alongside the work anniversaries or job announcements. To unfollow people or companies through Pulse, go to the Pulse page and click on Discover. Anyone you are following has a green check mark on their avatar (the blue plus means add). Uncheck the green mark and you will stop following them. This is less of a mute feature and more of a complete unfollow like on Twitter.
Hide: You can hide ads on an individual basis or you can hide updates from certain people. If you use the hide feature, you keep them as connections but without seeing every work anniversary or other job announcement they have. To hide someone, hover over their post in your feed and a “hide” button will appear on the top right.
To unhide someone, click on the text right below where you would normally write a status (it will likely say “All Updates) and click on Hidden. This will take you to a settings page where you can unhide someone. Hint: if you’re also looking for a good way to only see select groups of updates (like connections only), this is where you narrow it down.
Block: Of course, there’s always the block feature to totally remove a connection and sever all ties with them. You will lose any previous recommendations from them, but if you’re taking this far of a step, you’re probably willing to do that anyways. LinkedIn is helpful though in making sure you know the exact ramifications of what you’re doing with two pop up windows.
To block someone, click on their name in your home feed or just search for them to open their profile page. Next to where it says “Send a Message”, click on the “v” arrow and select “Report or Block.”
Outside of blocking a person, Vine really only has two options: limiting an outside inbox and turning off revines.
Limiting your inbox: If you’re getting inundated with Vine messages (or VMs) in your “other” mailbox, you do have the option to turn them off completely. Tap on the Home button with the down arrow next to it on the top left of your screen then select profile. Click on the settings button and scroll down until you see “Your content.” Open that menu and then turn off Open VM inbox so you don’t receive messages from everyone, only your friends.
Revines: If you only want to focus on the people you know, Vine lets you turn off “revines” so they don’t show up in your main feed. (This is pretty similar to its parent company Twitter’s feature that lets you turn off someone’s retweets).
Either by clicking on the user names in your feed or searching for it in the Explore feature, open the user’s profile page. Tap on the three vertical dots (up on the right near a camera icon on iOS) and select “Hide revines” from the pop-up menu. That means anything the user revines in the future won’t show up in your feed, but everything they produce will.
Block: You can also block a user by navigating to their profile, clicking on the three vertical dots next to the camera symbol and then selecting block. To unblock them, repeat the same steps.
Pinterest may be the one place you want to be inundated with content — oooh, look at the cute craft project! — but it can also turn into your friend’s wedding planner or kale recipe book. Sometimes, you may need to turn it down a notch.
Unfollow a board: Even if you’re following someone on Pinterest, you don’t have to follow all of their boards. From your main stream, click on the board name to see the full thing and then click “unfollow board” (it’s in the center below the board name, but above the pins). When you unfollow a board, it doesn’t mean you unfollow the person, so you can still see what your friend is pinning for bachelorette party ideas while ignoring her wedding vows inspiration board. If you unfollow all of a person’s boards, that means you’ve unfollowed the person.
Block: If you don’t want to see any of a person’s pins or have that person see you, you can block a person by clicking on the small flag on their profile page. It’s to the left of the “Pins from” box on the right.
Tumblr doesn’t have a mute feature and its unfollow feature is like the Twitter unfollow rather than the Facebook one. It does have an “Ignore” feature though, which functions more like a block.
Ignore: Tumblr’s equivalent to blocking is known as Ignore. When you ignore someone on Tumblr, you’re also blocking them from seeing your post and interacting with you in most ways. You can easily enter the user name on the Ignore page and add them to the list. (That page is also where you can see who you’re ignoring and unignore them from there).
Snapchat doesn’t really have an “ignore function” — what is in your feed is what you’ve allowed to be sent to you.
Limit snaps to friends only: When you open Snapchat, click on the lower left button, which should bring you to your normal list of photos. Tap the gear shaped icon on the top right to open up the settings menu. You’ll see your normal account information here, but further down the list is a section called “Who Can…”. Click on the “Send Me Snaps” button and set it only to “My Friends”. This eliminates the clutter of random people sending you their photos. (Note: You can also adjust who sees “your story” from the “Who Can…” section, but this action is more like blocking.)
Block: The only option to stop seeing a friend’s snaps (beyond just not opening them and deleting them) is to block them. If you click on a person’s name from your contact list, a gear-shaped icon will pop up. Click on the icon to pull up a list of options, including block. You can see who you have blocked if you scroll down to the bottom of your contacts list. If you, like me, didn’t have your “Send Me Snaps” only sent to private, you might’ve already blocked a couple (see above). To unblock, just repeat the process and select unblock.
Feature image by Kimberry Wood/Shutterstock.