Home » Why it’s better to mute Twitter trolls than block them

Why it’s better to mute Twitter trolls than block them

I’ve been trolled a lot. From the usual attempts to silence an opinionated woman to actual threats, I’ve upset the ragebabies of Twitter more times than I can count. It sucks, but it means I’ve learnt a fair bit about how trolls work, and how you can banish them from your kingdom forever.

Bypass the block

The generic advice for anyone being besieged by bastards is “Block and move on.” This is bad advice. Here’s why. In theory, when you’ve blocked someone, they can’t see your tweets anymore, and you won’t see their tweets to you (why they can still tag you in tweets is anyone’s guess). However, all it takes to get around this is a second account, or to log out, or to use an incognito tab. Not hard, and virtually all trolls have done it a million times. What you see when someone’s blocked you As Gavin de Becker repeatedly says in his excellent book The Gift of Fear (seriously, could not recommend this book more), stalkers and creeps need to feel they have justification before they take their threats to the next level. Justification can come in the form of any perceived slight – including blocking them on Twitter. Someone you’ve blocked can see you’ve blocked them, and I’ve seen people get supernova angry after they realise. And that can be dangerous for you. That’s not to say you should be afraid to block people – but there is a better way.

Is this thing on?

Muting is more recent than blocking as far as Twitter goes, but it’s more useful. It works two ways:
  • If you follow the person you’re muting: you’ll still see tweets of theirs that include your handle, but you won’t see their other tweets on your timeline (you can still see them if you go directly to their page).You can still get DMs from them if you follow each other. This is ideal for people you’re duty-bound to follow (eg. your colleagues) that post stuff you don’t want to see (endless Spongebob gifs). It’s not so useful for trolls, because why would you follow a troll?
  • If you don’t follow them: you won’t see any of their tweets. You wouldn’t have seen their tweets in your timeline anyway as you don’t follow them, but now you won’t see their tweets directly to you either. So they could tweet you fifty times today and you’d have no blissful idea. Ideal for trolls.
Muting does what blocking is intended to do – stop the troll’s crappy opinions from appearing in your mentions ever again – but without notifying the troll and risking escalation. They have no idea you’ve muted them, all they can see is that you never reply. Plus, it’s easily reversible if you change your mind.

Psych!

To repurpose the classic Skinner Box experiment, if you sometimes reinforce a troll by replying to them, they will continue tweeting you forever. Essentially, you’ve taught them “it takes 88 tweets to get a reply.” But if you stop replying entirely – which is much easier when you don’t see their reply-bait tweets – they soon give up. Essentially, muting a troll leaves them screaming into an uncaring void for the rest of their days. Like everyone else on Twitter, then 😉
This post contains affiliate links. Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash.

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