Updated on December 10, 2021
I notice that I’ve written a lot about Facebook over the past few years, but not as much about Twitter. It might be from Facebook’s massive popularity even in spite of everything wrong with it. Granted, Twitter has its own problems: an inability or unwillingness to deal with trolls and racists; a relentlessly negative tone in recent years; Donald Trump’s boorish presence; and so on.
That said, Twitter does have its positive uses. I find it more enjoyable to use than Facebook for hobbyist/interest related reasons; unlike Facebook, it feels easier to meet newer people; and there’s less throttling of user posts versus Facebook, thus making Twitter more useful for promoting one’s work (such as a blog).
Below are some basic tips on getting the most out of Twitter, at least based on my own usage.
Use Twitter lists
Lifehacker recently wrote about the merits of using private Twitter lists, about which I agree. One of Twitter’s criticisms is the fire hose-like stream of tweets that’s overwhelming for many new users.
Fortunately, one way to deal with this is to use Twitter’s lists feature. One can create multiple lists based on different categories (“comics and animation,” “politics,” “Linux users,” etc.), and organize Twitter accounts you follow accordingly. Said lists are also displayed chronologically, versus the algorithm-based main feed now listed by default.
There’s also the option of setting lists to be public or private. This gives the option of offering lists for others to follow, plus having lists for personal usage.
I make use of private Twitter lists to make following certain Twitter accounts or categories of interest easier. They also come in useful for events like tech keynotes. Lists also make setting up Tweetdeck easier (more on that below).
Since one can add any account to a list without said account’s permission, there’s some possible negative uses for lists—say, trolls and harassers creating lists of users to go after. To remove yourself from someone’s Twitter list:
- Go to the list.
- Click on the user that created the list.
- Under the three-dot drop-down menu, select “block (username).” You’ll be asked to confirm this.
- Under the three-dot drop-down menu, select “unblock (username).” (Or select the red “blocked” button that now appears.) Again, you’ll be asked to confirm this.
While you’ll both no longer be following each other, you’ll also be removed from their Twitter list.
Block trolls on Twitter
I’ve previously written about blocking trolls on Twitter. Trolls, harassment, and hate speech are still major problems on Twitter; unfortunately Twitter doesn’t seem to be doing much about it. Worse, there’s also complaints about Twitter temporarily blocking users who post rebuttals to harassers.
Fortunately, there’s a few third party tools to deal with such. While they’re very broad ones, sometimes it’s better than nothing. One such tool is Twitter Block Chain for Chrome browsers.
Another option suggested by some users to avoid seeing some of Twitter’s worst elements (such as neo-Nazis) is to set your user location to Germany. Germany requires Twitter there to adhere to its hate speech/anti-Nazi material laws, and filter such material out.
Use Tweetdeck instead of the default Twitter site
Tweetdeck is Twitter’s alternative means of accessing its service. Unlike the default Twitter interface, Tweetdeck offers extra features, most prominently viewing multiple Twitter feeds at once. As I said above, this is where sorting accounts into lists can be useful; one can view a “news” list of tweets next to a “friends” list.
Tweetdeck also carries all feeds chronologically, so no algorithm hijinks. Finally, there’s no promoted tweets (at least, for now).
I use Tweetdeck on my laptop, as it’s a lot nicer than the default Twitter interface. However, one downside is there’s no mobile apps for Tweetdeck; Twitter dropped those years ago to drive users to their (mediocre) main app. Thus, I’m stuck with the default Twitter app on my phone. (There’s a few alternative Twitter apps, but I’ve not investigated those since getting my iPhone/iPad.)
Use hashtags carefully
Twitter popularized the use of hashtags, and to this day, they’re a popular means of tying one’s tweets into a popular discussion topic. That said, it’s best to avoid going overboard on hashtags, as that can look spam-like. I try to limit their use to three or four at the most.
“Twitter App” by Brett Jordan is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)