De-Stress Your Social Media Life: Twitter

Black-and-white stencil image of Twitter logo

You’d think that since each message is 140 characters or less, Twitter wouldn’t be a huge time-waster. But you’d be wrong.

It’s easy to waste a lot of time on Twitter without realizing it. Leave it alone for an hour and you’ll have 200 updates waiting for you to read. And don’t forget about looking back to see what everyone was talking about, too.

Twitter is a valuable, useful means of communication that’s only getting bigger over time, so leaving it is rarely an option. But it can also stress you out and eat up free time that you could be using more productively.

But the real problem isn’t Twitter. The problem is how we use Twitter and what we allow to stay on our timelines.

In this post we’ll look at some of the best ways to get your Twitter feed under control so you can stay productive and happy while using what just may be the world’s largest complaint department.

Use Lists and Unfollow When Necessary

It’s easy to bloat your “Following” list with people you really don’t care about. Just about every celebrity and TV show has a Twitter account now, but do you really need to follow them? Using a Twitter List instead is a good idea.

Create one list for those celebrities, another for TV shows, and a third for your local bars and restaurants. Now when you want to see what’s going on with celebrities, just view that list. When it’s time for lunch, check out that list.

Now unfollow all those users and your real feed will be cleaned up, which keeps you in a more focused state of mind as you read.

Once you’ve added users to lists and unfollowed them, it’s time to prune your list of those actual people you don’t want to follow anymore and just get rid of them.

If you don’t like reading what they have to say, you shouldn’t dirty up your feed with their posts. Clear them out now and save room for the people that matter to you. If someone posts things you don’t like only once in a while, the Mute feature might be for you (more on this in the next section).

1. To use lists, first click on the Me tab in the top left menu of the Twitter Web client.

Main menu on Twitter site

2. Next, click the Lists item to view any existing lists you have.

Me drop-down menu on Twitter

3. If you have no lists, click the Create List button and give your list a name and description. Decide if you want the world to see it, or just you. If the list is public, the users you add to it will be alerted that you added them to the list. So if your list is “Annoying family members,” you probably want it to be private.

Create new list window in Twitter

4. Click Save list and you’re done. Now you can view this list just like your regular timeline by clicking on it in the Lists page.

The Mute Feature

Buttons with Twitter and hashtag logos

Twitter is unlike Facebook because while it does have a Web interface and official mobile client, Twitter thrives with third-party clients. It is these clients that offer some of the best features when it comes to de-stressing Twitter.

Easily the best of these features is Mute. With Mute you can hide just about anything you want from your feed, and do so very selectively.

For example, if you have a friend who linked a workout app to his or her Twitter that auto-posts every time he or she goes running, you can hide tweets from that app specifically. Now you’ll see all of your friend’s other posts while being spared the ones about how many miles he or she ran on the treadmill.

Duplicate contacts killing productivity? See how Scrubly can help in a 100-second video.

Another way to use mute effectively is to mute hashtags and keywords.

People love to talk about sporting events, awards shows, and reality TV, especially when they’re live. You can mute hashtags associated with the event as well as keywords for sports teams and other major events.

This varies depending on the client you’re using, but look for the mute feature and have at it. You get a cleaner feed without the need to unfollow.

Disable Retweets

RT sign in Toronto

A great feature in Twitter is the ability to retweet, or re-post what someone else already tweeted. You can share something funny, witty, or informative with your followers that they might have otherwise missed.

The problem is that some people go a little overboard and will retweet 10 or more times per day. This clogs up your feed and cuts into time you’d rather spend reading about your actual friends.

You can disable retweets on a per-user basis pretty easily. Different clients will have their own way of doing this, but you can do it via the Twitter Web interface, too.

1. Click on the user you want to disable retweets for and the user’s profile window will come up:

Profile Summary window in Twitter

2. Click the gear icon in the bottom right corner and select Turn off Retweets.

Gear icon drop-down menu

Now you’ll still see tweets from this user, but any content they retweet will be hidden.

Use Twitter as a Productivity Tool

Vintage 1950s-style poster of Twitter

Twitter doesn’t need to be a time suck. You can actually use it to get real work done and manage your digital life, too. First off, adding Twitter to Outlook is a great way to have fewer apps open and make it less tempting to browse the Web.

Next, you can use Twitter to manage profile information in your address book so you always have the most up-to-date info and profile pictures. Scrubly is pretty good at managing this, too.

  • To-Do Lists: Twitter can also be integrated with other apps to make you more productive. Link Remember the Milk and Twitter and you can send your to-do items as direct messages right from Twitter.
  • Get Flight Info: If you’re a frequent flyer, then getting the most up-to date flight information is pretty important. Use My Flight Info on Twitter to get flight details and info sent to you via Twitter.
  • News Alerts: Twitter has demonstrated a real-world usefulness with breaking news. While news can often be too reactionary, it’s nice to see things happening in real time. Check out these must-follow news accounts on Twitter.

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