It’s a common enough frustration for Twitter users. Someone follows you. Maybe they’re a friendly acquaintance or a co-worker or a member of your industry, so you follow back. It’s the polite thing to do and often the expected reciprocal gesture. By the time you notice that this individual is an excruciatingly obnoxious tweeter—a compulsive manual retweeter, perhaps, or maybe the sort to tweet nonstop song lyrics or autotweet truncated Facebook statuses or the type who won’t stop retweeting Joyce Carol Oates—it’s too late. You can’t exactly unfollow, can you? What if they notice? What if they side-eye you in the break room or punch you out in public or, worse, unfollow back? What then?
Anyway, it’s no longer an issue. Or won’t be in the near future. Twitter is finally rolling out a mute feature, the microblogging service announced today.
“In the same way you can turn on device notifications so you never miss a tweet from your favorite users, you can now mute users you’d like to hear from less,” Twitter explains. “Muting a user on Twitter means their tweets and retweets will no longer be visible in your home timeline, and you will no longer receive push or SMS notifications from that user.”
In other words, it offers you a trial separation from the World’s Most Annoying Tweeters when you aren’t quite ready to file for a divorce. (If you’re literally getting a divorce, this could be a useful tool.) And it’s reversible at any time, so you can temporarily mute a Twitter user if, say, they are live-tweeting a TV show that you’re sick of hearing about, maybe one that airs on Sunday nights on AMC, for instance.
That seems to address an inherent flaw in Twitter’s design that The Atlantic described well in its recent “A Eulogy for Twitter”: the more people you follow, the more overwhelming and perhaps intolerable your timeline becomes, and so once you reach a breaking point there is no longer room for growth.
But it also echoes an Unsubscribe option that Facebook has had in place for years. It’s not the only hint Twitter has taken from Facebook in recent weeks. Note the glaring cover photos of the Twitter redesign and the way that popular tweets appear larger and more prominently in users’ timelines.
Those developments mark a subtle blow to the bracing simplicity of the Twitter we’ve known for eight or so years. For that Twitter, yes, maybe a eulogy is in order.