Negativity on social media: Twitter now allows replies to be completely turned off

Estimated read time: 8 minutes


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Some people who participate in social media are really just kind of rude. Some are uniformed. Others just don’t know how to appear nice through the written word.

Some days it seems it’s just easier to ignore the trolls, Debbie Downers and Negative Nellies. Of course, that can go against the whole “we should engage on social media” thing, but why respond and waste time if it’s just a big, stupid debate? What’s the point?

It appears Twitter agrees that more tools and features are needed to control the rudeness. This article was first assembled in early April 2020 and I’m adding the May 2020 move by Twitter to allow users to turn off comments completely. Here’s how that looks in the wild:

Turning Twitter comments off

 

When turned on, the Twitter comment button is grayed out and you can’t reply. There are apparently different methods to turn off comments:

  • Turn off completely
  • Leave comments on to people tagged
  • Leave comment on to people you follow

As of the time of this writing I do not personally have this function available, yet. Remember that social media networks often roll out new features in waves. Not everyone gets them at the same time.

 

Of course that leads us to think about whether it’s a good idea to completely turn off replies on Twitter or not. Instagram, by the way, had this functionality for a while and I think I’ve never seen a post I wanted to comment on that had them turned off.

“Having seen some of the replies local reporters get, I wouldn’t blame them,” said Andrea VassalloMeyer making the argument to turn comments off. “For the general population it seems counter to the purpose of social media, where the goal is engagement.“

Said Stephan Hovnanian: “My take: it’ll help cut down noise, and make Twitter a safer space for many users, but also could perpetuate an echo chamber by excluding new entrants and ideas to a conversation. As with everything, use wisely.”

With many brands using social media scheduling tools, I’m not sure how and when this will integrate in those tools. I’m guessing it will at some point.


Let’s dive into some of the previously shared content…

What is the definition of negativity on social media?

It’s a bit of a personal decision and also can come back to relationship between the people. In general, I would define negativity on social media as anything that:

  • attacks
  • challenges unnecessarily
  • is just plain rude
  • makes threats
  • etc.

Of course, things can be taken out of context and misread. It happens. And definitely some negativity on social media does not need to happen. The only purpose that it serves is to irritate. Consider: If you have nothing good to say be quiet.

We also don’t need to hear about all the posts some of you disagree with.

I also find it negative when people pick unnecessary fights over personal or professional posts or pick words that clearly are overly and unnecessarily argumentative.

Let’s look at some of the ways to avoid negativity on Twitter by using tools the network offers.

Avoiding negativity on social media by muting replies How to hide replies on Twitter

The latest – rolled out by Twitter in late 2019/early 2020 – is the hiding of replies. This can come in handy when you have a post with a lot of replies and some are just off the wall rude or irrelevant. The process is simply:

See the reply, click on the arrow on the right and “hide reply.”

On Facebook you can actually delete comments. Twitter does not allow that, but you can hide replies. Anyone can still see them by going to that same drop down-menu and clicking on “view hidden replies.”

How to mute entire conversations on Twitter

You can also mute entire conversations on Twitter – even conversations that were started from one of your tweets. Again, go to that drop-down menu and click “mute this conversation.”

Now, it’s debatable whether that’s a good idea to mute a conversation around one of your tweets – it probably isn’t. But it’s an option. I mostly use this functionality when somebody tags me into a conversation I don’t really want to be in. Instead of sending back some rude comment, I just mute it.

How and when to block people

There is a time and place when blocking on Twitter makes sense. For example, I block people that I don’t know and who send me overly long and annoying direct messages.

This article discusses how I usually decide when to block somebody. 

Be aware though that Twitter tells the person you blocked that you blocked them! Hat tip for transparency. If you don’t want them to know that you blocked them, don’t block them. Also, if your account is public they can still see your posts by going to your timeline while not logged in.

How to force annoying people to unfollow you on Twitter

Another way to eliminate annoying commenters that follow you is by forcing them to unfollow you without blocking them. Here’s how that works:

  • Go to their account
  • Block them momentarily
  • Then unblock them, which you can do directly on their account page where you just blocked them

They are now no longer following you but also aren’t blocked from your account. It likely will take a while for them to realize that they are no longer following. No offense.

Read now: How long before people will miss our content – if ever?

How to mute people and words on Twitter

When I mute specific words I won’t see tweets with those words but if I mute people I won’t see any of their  tweets.

Of course, we might mute terms that are offensive or that we have no interest in. The trick is to not pick words that are too common and that don’t block our view of tweets we actually want to see.

If a lot of the people you follow are tweeting about a conference and you don’t care about the conference you may also consider muting the conference hashtag.

Read next: Should I put a conference hashtag in my Twitter name when I’m attending a conference?

For conference hashtags, I guess it makes sense to mute them if a lot of the people you follow are attending the conferences and are going to tweet from it. You might not want to mute them completely or unfollow them but only when they tweet about that specific conference.

How to mute specific words

If you choose to use this function, go to your notifications section and then click on settings.

Go to muted words

Then simply enter the word and set the time period and other parameters for what you want to set it for.

You can do the same on mobile in the Twitter app as well.

How and why to use the Twitter mute button

Twitter allows you to block and unfollow people that aren’t of interest to you or that are annoying. But there’s also a third option: The mute button.

I usually mute people before I unfollow them and I unfollow before blocking.

Unfollowing 

Unfollowing means you won’t see their posts in your timeline but they also might unfollow you. They can see that you don’t follow them.

Muting somebody on Twitter 

This means that you continue following them but you won’t see their Tweets. They can still see yours. As far as I can tell, they cannot tell that you muted them and they see that you still follow them.

Here’s how you mute somebody on Twitter. The screenshots are from the Twitter iPhone app but it works similarly on desktop as well.

Go to their profile and click on that Settings wheel.


A list of options pops up. Click Mute.  

They stay muted until you unmute them. You can do that by going back to this screen or by going to their profile page and clicking Unmute.

unmuting somebody on twitter
Your mindset matters too to avoid negativity on social media

Some negativity on social media certainly can be blocked out through our mindset. Just scroll passed it. Ignore it. Not everything needs to be responded to or even acknowledged.

I once had somebody write an entire blog post about how my blog post was wrong, I don’t know what I’m talking about, etc. etc. They even tagged me. It felt like a bit of a taunt. And really their intent could have just been to get me to respond, share their content and link to them. Aka: Free marketing for them.

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That’s another thing to consider: Some people might just try to evoke emotion to get us to pay attention to their brand, product, etc. Certainly, there are some people who are just rude to be rude, but something to consider. What would they get out of it if we respond or even acknowledge?

Some people might not realize their content is perceived as rude. It could be worth questioning further, but I’ve seen few people admit their rudeness mistake.


Should government accounts block people at all?

I’m not a lawyer and certainly as a former journalist I am an open records proponent. My guidance for anyone covered by open records laws: Do not block people. Mute them. If your content falls under open to the public, I wouldn’t take my chances on Twitter. Consider it to have to be open.