Use Twitter’s New Soft Block to Sidestep Abusers Without Enraging Them

Avoid feeding the trolls

Key Takeaways

  • Soft blocking removes your tweets from somebody else’s timeline, and that’s about it.
  • Combined with Twitter’s mute option, you can silence abusers without enraging them.
  • Stopping harassment is not its only use.
Twitter Soft Block feature on twitter.com

Twitter

Twitter’s new soft-block feature lets you stop harmful followers from seeing your tweets, without actually blocking them. But what’s the point?

The option is called "remove this follower," and it does just that. All it does is stop another Twitter user from seeing your tweets in their timeline. A full-on block does that too, but blocking a user also prevents those users from seeing your tweets anywhere. The idea of a soft block is to distance yourself from an abusive follower without enraging them. It’s kind of the Twitter equivalent of slipping out of a party quietly to avoid that dude who’s coming on strong.

"Twitter’s soft-block tool will become one of our best weapons to manage our mental health while using social media," Chel Gacrama, of wellbeing and mental resilience advocate site Castnoble, told Lifewire via email.

"Personally, I try to curate the content that goes through my feed, as I don’t want social media to be just another source of stress and mental strain. The ability to soft-block people is helpful in that it allows you to ‘spare yourself’ from their content without being disrespectful by blocking them outright."

Block Pain

The etiquette of social media is complex. On Twitter, you have a variety of tools to control what you see, and who sees you. You can block, mute, unfollow, and—now—"remove."

Why so many tools? For many people, it makes little difference. If you don’t like what somebody is tweeting, you unfollow them. If you don’t like their replies to your own tweets, you can block them.

But blocking can inflame the trolls. When blocked, that user cannot see your tweets anywhere. You no longer show up in their timeline, and they can’t even view your tweets by visiting your Twitter home page. 

If they find out, then they can either follow you from a different account or just log out to read your tweets. And a certain kind of troll may also cajole their own like-minded Twitter acquaintances to harass you by proxy.

Mute Method

The logic behind this new soft block is you can prevent an abusive follower from seeing your tweets, but if they visit your home page to check, they’ll see they haven’t been blocked, and can still see your profile page and all your tweets. You can then mute them, which means you never have to see their tweets, either. This will, supposedly, prevent the trigger that drives them mad with tweet-rage. 

"Twitter’s soft-block tool will become one of our best weapons to manage our mental health while using social media."

That is, until they figure out that you’ve soft-blocked them, because why else would they no longer see your tweets, even though you’re obviously still tweeting?

It’s another band-aid on the wider problem of Twitter hatred, and one that is unlikely to solve any of the platform’s ingrained faults. Right now, all these tools put the responsibility on the person being harassed to deal with the abuse after it has happened. A better way would be for Twitter to actively and decisively police the abusers, and shut them down—but that would also reduce engagement, which is fueled in great part by this enragement. 

Other Uses

There are some other times you may want to use this soft-block tool to manage your Twitter bubble.

"If you would like to limit your interaction with someone, yet still receive their tweets, you can soft-block them. When you soft-block the other user, [they] will no longer be able to interact [with] or view your account," digital marketer Sam Campbell told Lifewire via email.

"A soft block will remove someone from your follower list without unfollowing them, meaning their tweets still show up in your timeline, and you're still able to interact with them through mentions or by following/unfollowing them."

Removing a follower on Twitter.com

Twitter

As we said, it’s complicated. But short of setting your account to private, quitting Twitter altogether, or Twitter suddenly deciding trolls are not the lifeblood of its platform, these are the tools we have to work with. 

They are still too confusing, both to explain and to use, but at least there’s now some subtlety in the mix. Which is a good thing.

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