Tending my Twitter garden

Sometimes I hear of Twitter breaks but aren’t people just going to come back to the same stressful mess?

I advocate for thinking of Twitter as a garden that needs regular pruning and watering 😺 If we’re going to visit it everyday — and I certainly do, multiple times a day, even—putting in a bit of effort will keep paying off.

Here are four things in my “tending routine“ that helps keep my Twitter timeline a) a place to connect with other people b) a dynamic source of quality information and c) a rich stage of diverse ideas and perspectives.

Routine is a bit of an exaggeration… it’s a few minutes of tapping when I remember to do it, a few times a year.

1. Mute keywords

Angry commentary on the latest in American politics, frenzied guessing of who Uber’s next CEO could be, designers piling onto a logo re-design… once I have an idea of what’s going on, my tummy could really do without seeing it take over the timeline for days and days with increasing emotional intensity.

Muting a keyword, either forever or for a predetermined duration, is a simple but effective sound dampener.

Twitter mutes specific keywords in tweets, replies and mentions but it won’t hide a tweet if the keyword is part of a link. So it acts as a filter and not a block because you’ll still see instances of the keyword in the page titles, even if the keyword wasn’t used in the tweet text itself. And it won’t hide tweets on someone’s profile page — just your timeline. It’s pretty healthy.

How to use advanced muting options

You might see content in Tweets you’d like to avoid. We give you the option to mute Tweets that contain particular words, phrases, usernames, emojis, or hashtags. Muting will remove these Tweets from your Notifications tab, push notifications, SMS, email notifications, Home timeline, and from replies to Tweets.

2. Mute accounts, too

Sometimes you don’t want to Unfollow an account for whatever reason but seeing their tweets everyday is not enriching your browsing experience. Muting an account is a good way to keep up the signal-to-noise ratio.

Also — on top of my personal account, I manage the company Twitter account. There’s a significant overlap of Followings, so after realizing my AQ twitter activity was decreasing because its timeline was “worth” less to me, I muted all of the frequent tweeters that I already follow on my own account. Including myself!

Information hygiene 💪

3. Follow accounts that create breathing space

So I just talked about signal-to-noise ratio 😝 but I also like mixing in a couple of accounts that are purely for fun. Too much signal is not a good thing, either.

The key is to follow just enough of these accounts so that it acts as a breather, and not trigger excessive-context switching for the brain. I had to unfollow a couple of cute animal accounts because there were just too many cats to look at. That’s what YouTube is for, right?

My favorites:

Yoko Ono Bot on Twitter

Think about the ground. Imagine James Dyson thinking about it too.

I love this account. For a split second, you think it might have profound meaning… then, huh!?


ObamaPlusKids on Twitter

ObamaPlusKids on Twitter


Regular doses of former President Obama with kids of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds. Photos only, and never fails to make me smile

Picard Tips on Twitter

Picard leadership tip: Particularly if you’re in a high profile position, be careful what buttons you press.

Who doesn’t want a bit of Captain Picard in their timeline!?

4. Batch follow and unfollow accounts

I’m a serial learner and tend to dive very deeply into one topic for 6–9 months before moving onto the next. A good learning strategy is to use Twitter to find pockets of people who are leading that space and figure out what questions they’re asking. Finding active voices from both industry and academia, and systematically following the people they regularly exchange with is a great way to gain familiarity with the big themes, players and different schools of thought.

I’ll also do these batch follows as a way of evaluating my true interest in that topic — can’t learn everything and sometimes it’s not the right time.

Remembering to unfollow to make space for the next topic is important, too. The Twitter timeline should stay relevant to current interests.

That’s it! Tell me your tips, too — maybe this can become a proper five point list one day 😅

You can find me @tzs on Twitter.