Twitter isn’t for everyone, but the designers have created a number of tools that allow users to shape their experience, curate their input streams, intertwine narratives, choose overall reading tone, defend themselves against the forces of evil, hide from polite disagreements, and, in my case, remove irritants. The tools aren’t perfect, but I appreciate their usefulness when it comes to surgically removing unnecessary ugliness and repetitive stresses that damage my calm. For me, internet moderation is a form of self-care.
Sometimes the results amuse me more than I’d intended.
Among the most useful tools are those for muting and blocking, which represent different escalation levels. “Mute” is handy if you need a break from a particular person and want to send them to a time-out corner for a while, but maybe you’ll be able to stand the sight of them at a later date. Their tweets stop showing up in your timeline, but they can still see you, just in case you think they’ll want to.
Buried deep in the Profile section, there’s also an option to mute words. If you believe a given word renders entire tweets either meaningless or offensive to you, add the word to your Mute Filter and presto. So far I’ve added a handful of hashtags (either for TV shows I don’t watch or sociopolitical movements unrelated to me), the worst profanity, and one (1) particular last name that makes me cringe every time I see it, which is why I’d rather minimize the number of sightings.
Then there’s the Block. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I never need to hear from a given person for the rest of my life, and I don’t care if they see me for the rest of theirs. Blocking someone effectively makes you invisible to each other ever after. It’s not something I do lightly. I’ve been on the receiving end before — blocked by a couple of decent-seeming people thanks to a fifth-tier comics news site that had reading comprehension issues with one of my jokes from a few years ago, linked directly to it, and lumped me in with proud misogynists and cliched fanboys. I’d never heard of them before I ran across them a year after the fact, rolled my eyes, maybe seethed a little, then deleted my misread tweet, thus wrecking the HTML code within that site’s non-researched article (if you can call a collage of un-vetted search results an “article”). Being blocked isn’t the best feeling, especially when it was over a dumb misunderstanding, but it happens.
I’ve blocked a tiny handful of trolls (several allegiant to things ending in “-gate”), but a few years ago I found another use for it. I’ve also taken to blocking a number of high-profile personalities whose every word seems designed for maximum head-shaking, face-palming, and wishing the internet had never been invented because their every sentence is just that awful. Such famous folks get relentlessly quote-retweeted and sneered at by that enormous class of users who treat Twitter as their joke-writing audition reel for sitcoms or talk shows. Sometimes it’s actual TV writers dunking on them. I’d be more conflicted if those I blocked ever typed anything worth my time. If and when any of them share something of remote significance, rest assured dozens of media outlets will write headlines about it, print screen shots of the very material I blocked for a reason, or trick our local morning news into chatting about it and ruining my breakfast.
Maybe my fellow online jokesters see value in reusing the same skeets for their skeet-shooting hobbies, but to me it’s increasingly unfunny to see jokes at the expense of the same easy targets over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. It doesn’t help when said targets are consistently careless, thoughtless, tone-deaf, logically deficient, and/or typically forming their sentences with all the skill and precision of a caveman with dental equipment.
So I block the targets. No matter how famous or powerful. So whenever one of the citizens of Blockville snorts out their next jumble of misbegotten shallow thoughts, when the next 20-30 funnymen in line take turns quote-retweeting them with a bon mot affixed, I don’t see the quote-retweeted; I can only see the quote-retweeter. I don’t block the jokers — many are intelligent, entertaining folks when they’re not limiting themselves to the same singular topic or president as everyone else.
But the more these punchlines roll in with their context blocked, the more my entire timeline looks like a Twitter revival of Garfield Minus Garfield — lots of aggrieved Twitterers railing at nothingness.
To be fair, not all of these targeted the same millionaire, and the blockees aren’t all from the same party. As I said, I’ve tossed several such men into the same File 13. On Usenet we used to call it “killfiling”. I can’t believe we somehow lost that term and don’t use it today all throughout social media. “Blocking” sounds like we’re engaging in boxing or mixed martial arts, which is metaphorically okay here, but “killfiling” implies a harsher virtual quarantine from which no mere referee can save them now.
No disrespect intended to the authors per se, but…well, admittedly sometimes it’s okay when we can find ways to make self-care fun.