Today, Twitter officially rolled out a mute feature the company has been testing for a while. According to the company, “the muted user will still be able to fave, reply to, and retweet your Tweets; you just won’t see any of that activity in your timeline. The muted user will not know that you’ve muted them, and of course you can unmute at any time.”
The feature closely follows the common logic of lengthening the feedback loop to deal with trolls, spammers, and malicious users online. Some will undoubtedly see it as a tacit admission that users might be finding Twitter too noisy; it’s a direct response to user feedback and will serve a useful tool for those suffering from any form of harassment where blocking will not suffice.
While Twitter is branding the feature as giving users “even more control over the content you see on Twitter by letting you remove a user’s content from key parts of your Twitter experience,” it’s an effort by the company to enhance the user experience without forcing users to unfollow one another.
Already, many on Twitter are already embracing this as the social network’s greatest feature. For others though, it seems to add a new layer of complexity to the service as well as encouraging secretive, passive-aggressive behaviors (something Twitter power users are quite familiar with).
Twitter announced the changes in a blog post, but otherwise seems to have intentionally kept the rollout quiet. BuzzFeed, which is normally notified by the company about new product features, was not notified about the mute feature and the mobile app’s updated features in Apple’s App Store doesn’t list mute among its new features in today’s update.
While most will embrace or — most likely — ignore the new feature, it’s an interesting decision by Twitter to allow users to silence other users without their knowing. Similar to Twitter’s decision to experiment with showing users how many people had read their tweets, Twitter could be flirting with possible “mute paranoia,” where users suspect but cannot prove they’ve been silenced. As with the “tweet views” experiment, Twitter is banking on the hope that users are OK sometimes speaking to an empty room or — worst case scenario — a room that’s actively ignoring you.