Twitter Information Overload

When I first started reading my Twitter feed, it didn’t take much time to read all the posts. I would only check in every few days. As people started following me and I followed them back, even checking in every day wasn’t enough to keep up. I began reading all my posts when I woke up in the morning, in the middle of the day, and when I went to bed at night. After I started following more than about 100 people, I would have to spend several hours a day keeping up with all the posts, which was more time than I wanted to devote. Something had to change.

Image by Mark Smiciklas from flickr.com

When I first started reading my Twitter feed, it didn’t take much time to read all the posts. I would only check in every few days. As people started following me and I followed them back, even checking in every day wasn’t enough to keep up. I began reading all my posts when I woke up in the morning, in the middle of the day, and when I went to bed at night. After I started following more than about 100 people, I would have to spend several hours a day keeping up with all the posts, which was more time than I wanted to devote. Something had to change.

I had several choices. I could only read a portion of my of feed, spending only as much time as desired. I’m guessing this is what most people do. The problem with this approach was that I would miss some posts from my favorite tweeters.

Another option would be to stop following people that I didn’t care to read. One reason for not doing this was selfish. If I stopped following them, they would most likely stop following me and my coveted follower count would go down. Another reason to retain them is that some of the people following them follow me.

I chose a third approach. I continued to follow everyone I was following, but I controlled how much of what they posted I saw.

Getting to the Good Stuff

There are several ways to control what you see on Twitter. You can use lists, filters, or mutes. Lists are a standard Twitter feature. Filters and mutes are offered by non-Twitter feed readers.

Lists

Lists allow you to create subsets of your feed based on the members in the list. They are also useful for categorizing those you follow or are following you. I have created lists for writers, products, social media, etc. There is a limit of 20 lists and 500 users per list. The lists can be pubic or private. If they’re public, everyone can see who is on them. Private list can only be seen by you.

The approach I’m currently using is to add my favorite tweeters to a list called “First Pass”. Most everyone else goes on another list called “Second Pass”. If read all the posts in the first one and have time, I read the second.

Filters

Some times, it’s not a particular user, but rather a type of tweet that I would prefer not to see. In Tweetbot and possibly other non-Twitter provided readers, you can employ filters. Filters was hide tweets containing a search argument that you have supplied. One of filters I have set up hides Follow Friday posts. On Fridays, users post the ids of their followers that they recommend. Since there can be quite a few of them and they aren’t useful to me, I filter them out. Typically, these posts contain the hashtag #FF so I tell Tweetbot not to show me any posts that contain the #FF hashtag. You can also filter by keyword.

Mutes

If someone you’re following has gone off on a tweet rant or you’re just tired of them and need a break, you can mute them for a period of time or forever. This option doesn’t exist in the Twitter provided software as far as I know. When you do, you will no longer see their posts. The exception is if you are mentioned in a post. It’s good to keep tabs on what people are saying about you.

A Curse or a Blessing?

Is using Twitter worth it? I have to spend time reading through a lot of posts to find the valuable ones. They can tell me important things I want to know or just be entertaining. It’s also nice to return the favor with what I hope are useful contributions. It would be a toss up if that was all there was to it. For me, the most valuable aspect of using Twitter is making contact and communicating with other writers. Using the tools I’ve described makes it possible.

Tags: Twitter

Categories: Writing