Removing Trivial Content from your Academic Twitter Feed

Getting rid of trivial content in the Twitter feed of your academic or professional Twitter account is a continuous task. In order to not subvert yourself to an AI driven filter bubble you need to manually mute the accounts responsible for uploading this content. By following a few simple steps you can regain control over your Twitter feed pretty quickly without disrupting your professional network.

If you are an academic and use Twitter to stay up to date and well connected within your professional field, you might have already noticed that your Twitter feed gets quickly dominated by kittens and puppies. Weather you find this trivial content or “dog content”¹ personally annoying and distracting (like I do) or whether you just want to get trivial content out of your daily online life, you have come to the right place.

The Problem

The basic question here is: How do we gain control over our Twitter feed without feeding Twitter lots of data which it will use to build an uncontrollable filter bubble based on our “preferences”? Personally, I have decided to deactivate all automatic filter functions, data collection or preference options on Twitter, because I explicitly want divergent opinions and tweets from people that are not yet “trending”.

The top “interests” of my followers on Twitter according to the “Audience insights” of Twitter Analytics.

The problem here is that cats and dogs attract much more likes and retweets than anything that you ever might find personally valuable. Apparently they are the one thing that (almost) all  people agree on, independent of age, sex, political opinion or professional background and therefore they are dominating the web. If you hope that people will change, be aware that you are fighting the human condition. Unlike over at Instagram where the solution is simple (delete your account) getting rid of unwanted cat and dog pics on Twitter is not so easy. Let’s have a look at what we can do:

The Solution

To put expectations right: Your Twitter feed will never be 100% clean. There will always be a new cute-puppy-dog Twitter account passing through your filter or one of your friends definitely needs to share only that one image of their CUTEST furry familiar. Instead, it is a continuous struggle over control. Still, already after a day of “cultivating” your Twitter feed, you should be able to get rid of most trivial content. Here are some basic steps:

1. Use the blacklist for hashtags/words

In Twitter’s settings you can create a blacklist of hashtags or words that will never make it into your twitter feed. However, you need to take a close look at these options using your desktop computer. By default they often apply only to suppressing notifications or removing content from people that you do not follow. But what we want is to get rid of tweets from our home timeline that have been retweeted or “liked” by the people we follow. The bigger problem is, that most dog content will never use any of our black listed keywords. (e.g.: “Oh my goooosh look at this: dog-pic.gif” ).

On your desktop navigate to: Settings and privacy > Content preferences > Muted. There you will have the option to mute words/hashtags (Muted words) or accounts (Muted accounts).
2. Mark dog content as “not relevant”

If you find an unwanted tweet in your timeline select: “Show less often” > “This content isn’t relevant.” I have personally marked hundreds of tweets and if you allow Twitter to learn your preferences, this might actually work. Unfortunately, it seems if you do not allow Twitter to collect that data, it will never learn and stay the dumb dog lover it was destined to be.

If you do not want to see this Tweet you have two options: Tell Twitter to show it less (the AI will learn eventually) or: mute the account that uploaded the content.
3. Mute dog content accounts

A more efficient way to deal with retweeted dog content is muting the account that uploaded it in the first place. For this, you do not need to unfollow or block the person who is responsible for the retweet. Instead, you can mute the account that uploaded it. My estimate would be that 80% of the dog content originates from 20% of the sites. If you block one doggy account it will never show up again, no matter how many of your dog loving friends will retweet or like it.

4. Identify dog content accounts

If you do not have the time or nerve to mute content when it shows up, you might want to do a little investigation. If you want to block dog content, you first need to identify its source. For this, simply, go through the “following” list of your most active dog-lover-friend and block everything that is remotely related to dogs, cats or “cuteness”. This will allow you to keep your friend in your Twitter feed while draining the source of your annoyance.

5. Unfollow “dog lovers”

As a last resort you can mute or unfollow those people that will never learn, given of course, that their other content is not too valuable to you. However, it would be wise to plan ahead. If someone has “dog lover” in their profile description, think trice before following them. Do you REALLY need them in your Twitter feed? Check their latest tweets, if trivial content appears, better be on the guard. If you still need to follow them for some reason, you can mute their content right from the beginning or scan through the doggy sites they follow and mute them all.

Conclusion

The most efficient way of getting rid of trivial content is muting the accounts that create it. If you follow the steps above, you should soon be able to reduce dog content or other trivial tweets in your Twitter feed to a minimum. If something passes through, stay calm and add that new cat-account or trendy #hashtag to your block list. I hope this article helps you not just to avoid cats and dogs, but any unwanted content that you might encounter online. If you want to stay connected follow my (100% cat&dog pic free) account at @Aw_Mueller or keep an eye out for #cuteaggression ².

1 – “Dog content” is a term a friend of mine coined for this phenomenon. Here, I use it to refer to content that features any animal because of its “cuteness”. Personally, I indeed dislike cats but I am fine with coexisting with any other mammal offline.

2 – Cute aggression is a psychological term that describes the phenomenon that we want to hurt things that are “too cute” (e.g. squeeze a kitten because it is soooo cute). I use it as #cuteaggression on Twitter to rant about the annoyance caused by “cuteness” in my Twitter feed.


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