It’s better to consume in moderation.
By Sandra Gutierrez G. | Published Apr 16, 2022 3:11 PM
There’s always something happening in the world that you just don’t want to know anything more about. Maybe it’s some rich guy floating the possibility he might buy a social media platform. Maybe it’s a deluge of stories about an incident involving two or more celebrities. Or maybe it’s an out-of-touch influencer saying something incredibly cringeworthy. The list goes on.
Sometimes annoying news is inescapable, but most social media platforms and news services provide tools and settings you can use to filter a large chunk of it out.
Twitter has a useful feature that allows you to mute a list of words. All you have to do is tell the platform what keywords you hate, and it will slash them from your feed.
To set it up, open Twitter on the web and go to More, Settings & Privacy, Privacy & Safety, and then Mute & Block. Once you’re there, go to Mute words and click on the plus sign in the upper right corner of the menu. You’ll be able to use the text field there to add a username, hashtag, word, or phrase. Then, you can use the checkboxes and toggle switches below to specify what you want Twitter to do. You can mute words only when they come from people you don’t follow, for example, and choose how long you want the platform to use the filter for: 24 hours, a week, a month, or until you decide to turn it off. When you’re done, click Save.
Note that news stories tend to have a handful of keywords: the names of people involved, the name of the place where the news took place, the media outlet that broke the story, etc. Repeat the process above for each keyword related to the news you’re trying to avoid. It might be a tedious task, but the more thorough you are, the better your filter will be.
Instagram doesn’t have a straightforward way to filter out content like Twitter does. But you can tell it when you don’t like something and the algorithm will put posts like that at the very bottom of your feed.
Whenever you see something related to the news story you’re trying to avoid, tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the post. Then, on the emerging menu at the bottom of your screen, choose Hide.
[Related: The best hidden Instagram tricks]
Instagram will then hide the post and let you know that “You’ll see posts like this lower on your feed.” Now, what that means exactly is uncertain—the platform may filter out posts by that account, or maybe posts that include any kind of news stories. Also, it’s not clear how far lower posts like that will be—lower as in “technically invisible” or lower as in “you might still find them if you’re at the doctor’s office and they’re running late with the previous patient?” It’s in your best interest to believe that after repeating the process a couple of times, Instagram will understand your needs and start filtering out a specific news story. Here’s hoping.
If you use the News tab on Facebook, you have two ways of telling the platform that you don’t like something.
First, make sure the platform is not prioritizing content you don’t want to see. Click on the downward arrow in the top right corner of Facebook’s web interface and go to Settings & Privacy, and then to News Feed Preferences. On the emerging menu, click Unfollow to see if there’s anything related to the news story you’re trying to avoid. If there is, click the blue checkbox on the right so you don’t see it as often.
Then, as with Instagram, you can scroll down Facebook’s news tab until you find the story you want to avoid, open the three-dot menu, and go to Give feedback on this article. There you’ll see options you commonly associate with reporting inappropriate content, but at the bottom of the list you can click on Not relevant to my interests. Facebook will then confirm your choice and vow to show you fewer of those types of articles. What that means, though, is not exactly clear.
If you’re utterly offended by the story, you can click the three-dot menu again and choose Hide article to do just that.
If you get your news from an aggregated service like Google News, you can also let it know you no longer wish to know, say, whether Elon Musk plans to buy Twitter or not. The platform makes it easy for you.
First, open Google News and make sure you’re not following the specific topic you want to avoid. To do that, go to Following on the menu at the bottom of your screen, find Topics, and tap View all and manage. If you find something you no longer want to hear about, tap the three-dot menu and then Stop following this topic.
[Related: 7 essential Google Alerts you need to set up right now]
Now, let’s weed out that news feed. On both the For you and on the Headlines tab, every time you see a story on that no-longer-desired topic, hit the three-dot menu in the bottom right corner of the card. On the emerging menu, tap the thumbs down button above Fewer stories like this. Next, you’ll see a notification confirming your choice, and you’ll have the option to give Google News more information to refine the filter by tapping on Choose why. There, the platform will break down the different elements of the news story you flagged and you’ll get to choose what you want to see less of. Tap the keywords that apply, then tap Done.
As with Twitter, the more you proactively filter stories you don’t want to see, the lower the chance the platform will show them to you. So remember to go through the steps every time you see something undesirable.
If at some point you want to backtrack and decide that you’re indeed interested in whether or not Will Smith should attend the Oscars in 2023, tap your avatar in the top right corner of your screen and go to News settings. There, tap Sources & topics you see less of and review the list to see if there’s anything you don’t want in there. If that is the case, tap the minus sign to the right of each item and it’ll be restored to your feed.
Sadly, Apple News doesn’t have as many refined options to filter out content as Google News does. Basically, all you can do is tell the platform not to show you some news stories.
To do that, open the app and scroll down until you find something related to the topic you want to avoid. When you do, tap the three dots in the bottom right corner of the card and tap Suggest less.
It’s uncertain how many times you’ll have to repeat the process so Apple News knows what you’re trying to avoid specifically, but our guess is that the more you do it, the more accurate the filter will be.
Sandra Gutierrez is the Associate DIY editor at Popular Science. She makes a living by turning those “Wait, I can make that!” moments she has while browsing the internet into fully-fledged stories—and she loves that. Contact the author here.
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It’s better to consume in moderation.