Social media platforms can be better or worse depending on how we use them. Facebook doesn’t “cause” jealousy, but jealous people will definitely use Facebook in a way that inflames their jealousy. Instagram doesn’t “cause” anxiety, but people with anxiety use Instagram in a way that makes anxiety worse. The platforms themselves matter — I think Reddit is best for content seeking, Twitter for network building, Instagram for IRL friends, etc. — but far more important than their design is the way you can mod the system to your advantage. Here are some ways I have learned to Twitter better.
Clean the algorithm
Twitter’s algorithm puts weird things in your feed, like tweets from accounts that are followed by accounts you follow. Go to this page, and copy and paste each term into your Mute list. It cuts out the gunk.
Unfollow if annoyed twice
If you get bad vibes more than once from the same account, unfollow them. Nobody is owed your attention. Be loose with unfollowing. Careless.
Ditch “Influencers,” follow real humans
And follow small meme producers instead of the bigger pages that aggregate memes from others.
Follow journalists, not their publications
When you find a well-written opinion piece or well-researched article, go follow the journalist. I don’t bother with the NYT or WaPo main accounts. Journalists promote their own articles anyways. Plus its more fun to get to know them as thinkers with whole perspectives rather than just someone who wrote that one article.
Follow interest Lists
If you find a semi-popular account, chances are, someone has put them in a list. Go to twitter.com/ [their @ ] /lists/memberships and you will find other accounts like them. For example if you like Liz Bruenig (of NYT) as much as I do, you would go to https://twitter.com/ebruenig/lists/memberships and find smaller but just as good accounts.
Follow at least 2000 accounts
Good rule of thumb, or you will see the same people’s posts too often.
Find best of the out-group
You want to follow members outside your in-group to avoid the echo-chamber effect. But you don’t want to follow out-group plebs who just retweet others and provide no insight of their own. The goal is to find high quality out-group posters. This is very difficult but rewarding.
Limit one hour a day
Unrealistic but a good goal.
Block Bad Actors
Bad Actors are people who are only in it “to win” the game, have no commitment to changing their minds if wrong, or just troll others and call people names. I recently blocked Rick Wilson (a GOP strategist who is very Never-Trump) when he called someone a pukeface or something. The very next day he was on TV mocking southerners as idiots, to considerable backlash, so I felt vindicated in blocking him. If you are a Christian, I highly recommend blocking Pulpit & Pen, a site notorious for its inaccurate hitpieces designed to get rage clicks. When you’ve blocked them, you can’t give them attention, and they lose power.
Mute key terms from Bad Actors
Sometimes the followers of Bad Actors will have insider terms to signal their in-group membership. A while ago I decided to mute “1689” because it had become one of these signals. I still see their other tweets. But any discussion from them about themselves or from others about them which uses the signal 1689 gets hidden from my feed.
Don’t Brigade, don’t get Brigaded
Brigading is when an influential account sics their followers on a smaller account to hound them. Don’t do this to people. If you see yourself quote-tweeted in this way, just block their account and unblock it the next day.
Follow your retweeters
If you attract people who retweet you often, follow them back. They probably retweet other things you’d like. And they are worth getting to know.
Start threads with Thread Starter
Never start a thread with the first point you want to make. Always say something like “Why do conservative Protestants hate gay people? A Thread:” and then in the second tweet make the first point. If you don’t do this, people won’t read the thread. I learned this last semester when a thread I posted went viral… but 98% of the views were on the first tweet only. Most people missed the whole thing. If you start with a Thread Starter, more people will read beyond the first point.
Someone going full reply-guy and annoying you with their constant commentary on your tweets? Most often this happens to me when someone isn’t obeying the 2000+ following rule, so I am one of the 100 accounts they follow, half of which are inactive. It is their fault. But one way to ward off the reply-guys is to Soft Block: block them, then unblock them, then mute them. This causes their account to unfollow you. Then can always refollow, but hopefully they will forget for a while. When they come back, you’ve muted them.
Revoke old apps
I revoked old apps that still had access to my account from TWO THOUSAND AND TWELVE. Go to Settings, then Account, then Apps and Settings and click revoke access on each one you do not use. Keeping old apps is a security risk.
Delete all old tweets
Make sure to save your data archive first, since there really is no way to get deleted content back. You should delete your old tweets. You should. This is becoming more imperative over time, not less. Unfortunately it is not very easy to do this for free if you have more than 3200 tweets. So I used Tweet Eraser for $7.