My Twitter Muting Regime, July 2017

Twitter recently announced a few more options to mute the obnoxious and stupid on their service, a move I applaud both as a general step to cut down abuse on their service, and as a person who the obnoxious and stupid often try to bother on Twitter. The new mute options include muting accounts that don’t follow yours, and also muting new accounts (that you don’t follow), the latter of which is good for cutting down the number of sock puppets you might hear from.

These new options make it a fine day to talk about my own Twitter muting regime, which some of you might find comes in handy for yourself. I do mute a lot, as a consequence of people saying stupid/obnoxious things to me on Twitter on a frequent basis, and muting does make Twitter more tolerable. I do prefer it to blocking, since unless you tell them, the muted have no idea they’re muted, so they’ll often keep yelling at you long after you’ve consigned them to oblivion, and I like the idea of these jackasses wasting their time and effort. Other people prefer blocking or some combination of the two, which I think is cool. Whatever works for you.

So here’s how I mute:

1. I mute new accounts, using the new feature Twitter provides. In my experience brand new accounts that tweet at me (evidenced by very low follower/tweet numbers and default icons) tend to be sock puppet accounts, i.e., the additional accounts of an obnoxious person, who wants to make it look like he (it’s almost always a he) has a posse. I would note that Twitter does not at this point appear to define what “new account” means in this context; whether aging out of the “new” category requires a certain number of days/weeks or a certain number of tweets, or both, or some combination. In an ideal world, I would love to have granularity; I would probably mute new accounts for a month, and until the account made 200 tweets (unless I actively followed the account). But it’s possible Twitter is not saying what qualifies as “new” so it will not have jerks trying to game the “new account” setting, which I can appreciate.

2. I mute accounts with default icons, previously eggs but now eggs with shoulders. This also eliminates a lot of sock puppets and people who can’t be bothered with the service enough to actually change the default image. Between this and the “mute new accounts” setting, I expect a lot of Twitter sock puppetry to be even more futile in the future than it already is today.

3. I mute accounts that are antagonistic toward me on Twitter. This doesn’t mean I mute accounts when people disagree with me, or say something that clearly is meant to be sarcastic or sardonic, or are just having fun sassing me, or poking fun at my ego. I mute them when they’re being assholes and/or sea lions and/or otherwise trying to troll me. After nearly a quarter century online I’m pretty good at knowing who is doing what and why, and for people I don’t know, I have a “one strike” policy, because life is too short to deal with assholes. I personally advise people to mute other accounts using a “one strike” policy and by trusting their gut when it comes to people being assholes to them. Basically, if it feels like someone is trying to insult or gaslight you, mute the lil’ fucker. Twitter has 300 million users. You’ll find other people to talk to.

4. I make the Twitter handles of particularly obnoxious people mutable words. Very recently a particular garbage human tried to sea lion me and a bunch of his sycophants tried to join in on the fun. I muted the original garbage human, but his sycophants, eager to have their senpai notice them, would respond to me and “@” the garbage human too. Well, as it happens, Twitter lets you mute specific words, and Twitter handles qualify as words. So I made the garbage human’s handle a mutable word and, voila, no more sycophants (or, rather, very few). This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, and given the basic suck-up nature of alt-righties, MRAs, PUAs, aspiring fascists and the sort of dude who thinks he’s tough guy but is actually sort of a shrieking coward, it really cuts down on the bullshit I have to see.

For me, this strikes a good balance for keeping my Twitter feed mostly uncluttered by jerks while at the same time open enough for random normal humans, who do not revel in being an asshole, to comment at me when they want to, because very often those people and their comments are delightful and I am glad they make the effort. Twitter is in part worth being on specifically for folks like that. That said, I am also a quasi-public individual and minor celebrity, so keeping the lines open for random folks to chat might make more sense for me than it might for someone who is just trying to use Twitter to chat with friends and otherwise keep up with people they find interesting. For those folks, other mute settings like muting people who you don’t follow, or who don’t follow you, might make more sense.

Another point to make here is that Twitter’s mute settings are not irrevokable, so you can go turn them on or off on a temporary basis if you have to. For example, if the forces of evil were attempting a particularly heavy day of trying to jam up my tweet stream, and I didn’t have the time and/or inclination to individually mute all the jerks, then I might turn on “mute people who don’t follow me” for a day, until things got mostly back to normal, which would cut down on the jerkiness considerably. The point is to mix and match muting strategies.

Now, this is where some folks who you might choose to mute will huff and puff about free speech and/or how muting people means you’re not willing to engage in honest debate or whatever, but really now, screw those dudes. You’re not obliged to humor jerks who want to make you miserable, on Twitter or most anywhere else, and anyone who is of the “You won’t debate me! I win!” sort is probably the sort of person you’re well shut of. Let them have the “win” there. You’ll actually win by never having to see them on Twitter again.

(“But how would you feel if people muted you on Twitter, Scalzi?” Well, I’m sure they have, just as people have blocked me on Twitter. In both cases I feel fine about it. No one is obliged to humor me, either, on Twitter or most anywhere else. Please, mute or block me on Twitter as necessary or desired!)

So that’s how I (currently) mute people on Twitter. It’s made my Twitter life much happier. I encourage you, if you use Twitter, to do similarly. You should be able to enjoy the service without the jackasses.

The Big Idea: Jennifer Stevenson

 

With a title that includes the phrase “coed demon sluts,” you might think that you know all you need to know about Jennifer Stevenson’s series of paranormal women’s fiction. Here’s Stevenson to make the argument that there’s more than meets the eye.

JENNIFER STEVENSON:

The foundation of this series is a question: “Aren’t you tired of doing everything right? Wouldn’t you like a second chance to go back and do it wrong?” Each of the main characters is starting life over by becoming a succubus for hell. I discovered the hard way that it’s a deeply feminist project. And that’s the big idea.

A thorough survey of strangers in convention bars informed me that, while men easily answered the question, “What would make you sign a contract to become a sex demon?” most women had to think hard. If they went for the deal, they said they wanted physical, social, or sexual power, money, a solution to [name a physical issue], a power balance to [name a social injustice], revenge, eternal youth, and, very last, beauty. Not sex.

This was my first women’s fiction, in the main passing the Bechdel test, deeply addressing the grimnesses that make feminism so unfluffy. My usual stories often have serious themes, but they always, always present as fluffy.

The deal:

Thirty antique pieces of silver a month for tempting three individuals; go the distance and you get a nice bonus.

An eternally young, super-strong, horny demon body that can be gumbied into any shape, color, or size.

A car, a credit card, housing, and a team of other succubi.

The job:

We no longer buy souls. We can’t keep all these full-time people. Everyone’s a contractor: you can quit, you can be fired.

Online monthly reporting is hellish—Windows 8, 33 screens of fields per record. You have to tattoo your 88-digit IIDN on the sole of your foot, because who can remember that?

Kiss your old life goodbye. By the time you’re ready to quit, everyone you know may be long gone–and the you they know will be gone.

What was hard about this big idea?

The challenges were what they always are: Write the other. Get into their skin and make people forget how wackshit the story premise is.

It wasn’t hard to imagine how becoming a succubus would affect prissy housewife Beth or beleaguered teen Melitta or 98-year-old bubbe Cricket with her mile-long bucket list.

But Pog’s complicated relationship with food and its relevance to her old life as a plus-size prostitute and her shifting friendships with the other five women took me back to high school in ways I didn’t want to revisit, because I flunked Girl.

While Jee’s childhood in a Bangkok brothel left scars I could trace in my sleep, her Dom relationship to the sluts’ /p/i/m/p/ onsite manager sub was new. I wanted to rebut some of the reader protocols I found in BDSM romance and erotica–most notably that the Dom always knows what they’re doing, and that the sub always falls into the role without protest, never uses their safeword, and puts on the collar for life, not just a sweaty hour in bed. How would Jee feel, dominating their demonic pimp, doing it wrong, realizing why it’s working on him anyway, and then struggling to undo what she’s done and do it again right?

Amanda was hardest. She’s so repressed, she thinks she’s asexual; sex is just her job, and as an athlete she’s used to physical work. Memo to self: Don’t write repressed characters. An Army brat who gave her life to her ailing parents, she never realized she was gay. When they died, she found that her job at a defense contractor had segued imperceptibly into a cubicle in hell. I had to draw her out of her Army shell, wake her up sexually, and get her into bed with a woman. Amanda dragged her feet, unwilling to give up the comforting numbness of her cubicle and afraid of the Army’s rule for women: be invisible. The result was one of my sweetest, happiest books…but oy getting there.

What was easy about this big idea?

I’ve been writing about sex for almost thirty years. With every book I think, What the hell different can I say about sex this time? The answer always has to be different.

Despite the title, this series isn’t about sex. I was frankly overjoyed to plunge into imagining what, aside from their job, sex had to do with these women’s lives. I got to leave out the squishy bits and write the everything-else. From a feminist perspective, this was a total gift.

I write the unexpected and I write it funny. Sometimes that’s a gimme, sometimes it’s hard. I had to challenge the assumption that woman=slut=sex. My girls had to own “slut.” Turning reader expectation on its head meant inventing women with relatable problems, confronting those problems with succubus life, allowing myself to get angry but stay funny, writing a happy end every time that relied on character, not a magical gimmick, and leaving out the sex. The make-you-think part rose up like an onion in the schmaltz.

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Coed Demon Sluts: Beth: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBooks|Kobo

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Facebook.