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Mute, Don’t Block

I can’t hear you, Jonathan Cheban

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

What do you do when someone is awful on Twitter? The obvious move is to smash your thumb against the “block” button. (The even more obvious thing to do is hurl your phone out a window and watch silently as a stream of traffic pulverizes the aluminum and plastic and glass until it’s nothing more than an opalescent road stain, but that can get pricy.) I am here to advocate for another option: Mute them. [Extremely King Aerys II Targaryen voice] Mute them all!

I mute anyone who crosses me, whether in a direct way (telling me I’m a bad writer who should also die violently) or an indirect way (tweeting something positive about my enemy, Jonathan Cheban). Do you have an egg avatar? Muted! Are you my old coworker and it would be awkward if I straight unfollowed you because I see you at events thrown by our mutual friends? Muted! Does your bio include the word “ninja”? Muted! Sometimes I mute people whom I’ve never interacted with, just because I can, like Jonathan Cheban.

What I’m saying is, let’s all mute Jonathan Cheban.

While blocking someone banishes them from your timeline and sends them a nice, clear message that you find them intolerable, it’s more satisfying to remove someone without telling them I’ve done so. They don’t deserve the notification. They deserve to wonder how I keep such an unflappable demeanor no matter what they tweet at me. Muting is sneaky, and I like that.

Muting doesn’t solve Twitter’s persistent abuse issues — an aggressive person whom you muted or blocked can easily make a new account, and Twitter’s abuse reporting often fails to produce results. It’s not helpful when you get into cases of aggressive harassment, since the harasser can easily make new account after new account to go after you. But I highly recommend it for curating your Twitter experience into a slightly less annoying one.

The person you mute can still see and respond to your tweets, so to them, it looks like everything is cool, and that Jonathan Cheban is your favorite tertiary character in the Keeping Up With the Kardashians universe. They won’t know a thing. But you will. You will know that you have eliminated this person’s digital presence without their knowledge. You turned Bruce Willis in Looper (kind of scary) into Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense (dead and mostly impotent, yet doesn’t know it).