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Reducing the Noise on Twitter (An Approach for your Sanity)

by Michael Szul on tags: digital lifestyle
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I've been on Twitter since almost its inception, and unfortunately, I've seen the platform go from a communication tool to a tool that mostly broadcasts noise. I've found it hard to keep up with things going on, and can't really tell if it's trying to be a media platform (and therefore I should look for news), or a way for people to communicate (and therefore I should "follow back").

Lately, I've grown very disenchanted with tech Twitter, politics Twitter… even comics Twitter. It's become a travesty of bad news, people attacking each other over opinions, or some people patting themselves on the back when they tell you what to think.

I had already started to reduce my time on the platform, and with the new year rolling around, I started to do some overall clean-up that began with unfriending 1/3 of my Facebook friends, and continued with me unsubscribing from a handful of podcasts.

Anil Dash wrote a blog post about a year ago about cleaning up your Twitter timeline in order to reset your perspective, and although I didn't want to start over by unfollowing everyone, I did find a handy tool called Tokimeki Unfollow that will take you account-by-account through the people you're following and allow you to choose to remove them or not. The application recommends that you hide their bio, and instead focus on whether or not the content you see in the small window it offers is content you want to continue to see. It took me 3 days to get through everyone (and I probably kept a lot I shouldn't have), but I stopped following 629 accounts. I was originally following 1,534, so this takes me down to 905, and I'm going to try to remain below 1,000 permanently.

In addition to unfollowing individuals, I took a few other steps. For one, I went into the settings, and under notifications, I turned off the "quality filter" to avoid Twitter's algorithm filtering out content for me. I then went into the muted words setting, and I muted "RT @". Why? Apparently native retweets are actually translated to the old "RT @username" string of old on the back-end. By using the above as a muted word, all retweets that aren't quote retweets where someone adds additional context is stripped from my timeline.

I also changed the "trending" feature to be worldwide instead of my local area.

All of this was to de-clutter noise, and to make Twitter more enjoyable when I am on it. I won't get a stream of retweets with no context, I won't get filtered content (somewhat), and I've removed a large number of accounts that weren't providing me with the interaction and content I was looking for.

It's a fun exercise. I encourage you to try it out yourself.