the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Thomas Edison of Twitter Mute Filters

I’ll admit it. The torrent of information online wrecks havoc on my anxiety level. While most writers worry about getting more “hits,” I am consumed with filtering you out. I say this with love because I care about you. And if I care too much, I start to flounder. Everyone seems to have a blog, or at least a Facebook page. Who should I deem most important to me? I follow terrible writers who are amazing individuals. I follow amazing writers who are terrible individuals. I follow college friends, homeschooling Moms, Orthodox rabbis, Wiccans, and journalists with the New York Times. Sometimes I just need a rest, or at least to make my online world a smaller village.

I use Social Fixer for Facebook. It is a free browser extension that helps me hide things like your annoying games. Do what you want in the privacy of your own home. I don’t not need to know who you killed in Mafia Wars. I’m also a big fan of the Facebook “Close Friends” list. I’m constantly switching it up, depending on how I feel about you at the moment. So, be careful! No one is safe.

My Google Reader is a perpetually mess. I open it up, see 10,000 unread items and want to vomit. There are just too many choices. On days when my anxiety level is high, I borrow a technique I first encountered on Backpacking Dad three years ago — I use the Next Reader Bookmark in my browser. My system — I create a folder of personal favorites on Google Reader, no more than 20 blogs at a time. I then install the Next Reader Bookmark, but only for this specific folder. Now, when I am in the mood for some reading, I simply press the button and a blog boots up. I’m never sure which blogger will show up next, since it is ordered by publication date, but that’s part of the fun, like playing the slot machine in Vegas. But since the twenty-five reading choices in the folder are special to me, I’m usually happy with what shows up.

Do I use this Next folder all the time? No. I like to read new material. But on those days when life is stressful, my Next button is comforting, like a mother spoon-feeding a baby information.

Twitter is my true nemesis. Even in my private lists, I feel like I am constantly being bombarded by links. Do this. Read this. Vote for me. I know social media is all about promotion, but sometimes I just like the conversation. Tweetbot, my mobile Twitter app, and Tweetdeck, my web app, offer filters to help mute certain keywords or hashtags.

I hadn’t explored these mute filters very closely, until last night. I cleared my desk, opened up my Twitter apps, and spent some time experimenting with different words and phrases as mute filters. I wanted to create a better Twitter experience for myself. And that’s when the Eureka moment occurred — I typed the term “/” into the mute filter form box, pressed enter, and suddenly, every single tweet containing any link disappeared from my view — all of them, from the newbie blogger to Mashable. All that was left was conversation and status updates. It was as if I had inadvertently discovered the common denominator of ever link. If an update had a “/” it was muted. Again, I wouldn’t do this most of the time. I like having Twitter as an RSS feed. But I had just created a choice for myself.

I immediately called Juli in New Zealand. I told her the story, trying to impress her, as men are apt to do with women.

“That’s nice,” she said.

“I don’t think you get how significant this discovery is to the online world. I even googled this “/” thing as a Twitter mute filter, and found no references at all. It’s like I’m the Thomas Edison of Twitter Mute Filters!”

Last week, Juli’s mother had discovered my blog and read the post where I discussed the terms “pussy” and “dick.”

“He’s uh, certainly different,” she told Juli. “But what has he accomplished?”

So, HERE YOU GO, Juli’s Mother! I know you are reading this post. Here’s your answer — I am THE THOMAS EDISON OF TWITTER MUTE FILTERS!

You’re daughter is lucky to know such a genius.


  1. Amanda

    I remember my mom saying to me, “I don’t care who your friends are, I care how the people you choose to spend time with make you feel.” It allowed her to look past certain people who at the surface didn’t seem to offer much.

    Your discovery is a bit like that. I am happy for you and for the reminder that it’s ok to not want to hear everything from everyone.

  2. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    I don’t have that many connections online so I don’t do much filtering. There are people I “hide” on Facebook because they’re prone to posting on political things I’m not interested in, and I occasionally use filters to limit who can see my updates. As for Twitter, I’m not that into it. It’s an awkward place to have a conversation. I’m more of a reader than a poster there, even so, I just skim. For me the value of Twitter *is* the links. There are a few people who share some I’m interested in. But truly, when social media overwhelms me or makes me feel depressed or anxious, I know the *root* cause isn’t online, it’s something that’s going on in my life offline. If I’m depressed or lonely or stressed, social media makes me feel far worse. So I disconnect from all of it and try to focus on what’s really bothering me. As for blogs, I read the ones I like and I’m most likely to visit those that are updated regularly. There are people I like who have blogs I’m not interested in. I don’t read their blogs, and I don’t feel guilty about it. I connect with them in other ways. I don’t use readers or feeds. I have my favorite blogs bookmarked and just wander through my list when time/interest allow.

  3. Sara

    I love social media, but i am very fussy about who I connect with. I only follow blogs that I enjoy reading, and i regularly go through and edit my reader. i block anyone on facebook who is consistently negative. Still, it’s a funny old world. Congrats on your awesome twitter discovery – your girlfriend’s mother sounds very proud 😉

  4. Amiyrah

    Ha! You are quite the genius, Neil. If I didn’t have to use twitter in a work capacity, I’d use the mute option. Hell, I guess I could do it on the weekends when all I want to do is talk to my friends and tweet inappropriate things. Also? This set of sentences: ” I follow terrible writers who are amazing individuals. I follow amazing writers who are terrible individuals. ” Yes. YES. This is how I have felt as I reviewed who I read on a daily basis and who I love to recommend to friends. I know I’m under the “terrible writer/amazing person” list for most, and that’s OK. I’m still going to write and not turn into a douche-bag in the process. Life is good when you know where you stand, right?

  5. Father Muskrat

    Yes, she is lucky.

  6. Sarah Piazza

    Greatest. Blog. Post. Title. EVER.

  7. alejna

    You crack me up, Neil. That is quite the ingenious discovery!

    (Of course, I find myself noticing that 2 of the comments on this post so far include usage of the “/” in a non-URL sort of way. So there is that risk of over-filtering. I wonder what the frequency of the this/that construction is on twitter? I’m probably not helping here…)

    • Neil

      Yes, it overfilters a little. And yes, some links get through. But I now use the filter on tweetdeck and the twitter app for all, and it is an amazingly different experience. Yeah, I miss a lot. But it is so calming just to see the dialogue.

  8. Summer

    My life changed when I started muting by tag and muting retweets per twitter user. Well, and I left Facebook and G+. I’m actually a bit at loose ends, to be honest. Catching up on 90’s sitcoms. Reading a lot of Nietzsche.

  9. Marie Nicole

    You are the Thomas Edison of that whatever. I don’t know squat about twitter, I have an account, have gathered over 400 followers yet I have no idea why anybody would want to follow me on that thing, I’ll never have a handle on it. Filters? Forget about it. Invest time in figuring it out? Scrap that one out with dirty dishwater.

    Like you though I do seek the interaction – discussion, exchanges… So to Juli’s mother, I would add that you are not only a Thomas Edison of something she’ll never understand, you are the King of generating thought provoking interactions on Facebook. Just pull out any status of yours and count the comments it has generated. You know how to spark interest. And that, any mother would understand. All hail the King of internet interactions! 😉

  10. Alexandra


    It’s not just Juli who’s lucky to know a twitter genius.

  11. Lily from It's A Dome Life

    I am going through this right now. I keep getting new social media thinking I will only let in my favorite things. There is so much pressure to reciprocate a follow or a like that you end up with way too many things to read. I opened my reader and had 10,000 posts to read. I started at the top of the list. Your blog is #3 because it is alphabetized. I sometimes start at the bottom and work my way up. The people in the middle I miss often. I find I miss some of my favorite blogs because of all of the clutter. At the same time I still like all of the people and blogs in the clutter. It’s not easy. I was just thinking about getting a blog lovin’ account to see if I could filter things a little.

  12. Kevin

    If anything you’ve figured out how to take twitter back 5 years. When it was still “what are you doing.” Before it became all “hey look at this thing!”

  13. Jester Queen

    Visiting from Yeah Write. And your slash mute is BRILLIANT! I rarely fool with Twitter and I tell you it’s genius.

  14. Erica M

    The yeah write editors chose this post for the invitational grid this week. We love how no matter the topic, you always tell a complete story. If you notice any comments saying how the visitor followed you here from yeah write (like Jester Queen’s) that’s why.
    Erica M

  15. Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom

    Neil, you nailed it. I get anxiety from the social media/blog overload too. Everyday I think to myself “There are so many blogs I want to read and so many people I like out there that I want to support, why are there not enough hours in the day?” After all, we’ve gotta write too, right? Well done, Sir! Sanity is the Father of Invention! 😉

  16. Stacie

    I just loved this. You ARE brilliant. Maybe you should have patented that first before telling the whole world 😉 I’m also visiting from yeah write.

    • Neil

      Hi there!

  17. Marinka

    I can’t wait to start filtering everyone! Good luck, Juli’s mother!

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