In this post I’m going to walk you through how to unfollow everyone and use Twitter Lists as a way to not only enjoy Twitter more, but to hopefully spend less time endlessly scrolling through your Home feed.
Since the pandemic began, I’ve tried to be more aware of my mental health. I spend a lot of time reading online and that has only increased since the pandemic started. Twitter has been the single most valuable resource available for keeping up with the progress being made on the pandemic. Twitter has allowed me (and the rest of the world) direct access to the scientific and medical community that are working on the pandemic. Because everyone in the world has that access, there’s also a lot of noise. It wasn’t long before I realized the noise was negatively impacting my mental health and short of quitting Twitter altogether, the fasted way to cut down on the noise was to unfollow everyone. On June 15 I did just that.
It’s a thing I have done on several occasions over the fourteen years I’ve been on Twitter. Every other time I did it, I would simply start over with a clean slate. This time was different. Over the past year I have been using Twitter Lists more frequently and figured I could unfollow everyone and switch to using lists exclusively. In a very short time, Twitter became an entirely different experience for me. I haven’t followed a single account since I unfollowed everyone, at least not in the traditional sense. I have, however, added a lot of accounts to the various lists I have.
Lists are an often overlooked and powerful feature that Twitter seems to under-emphasize. I don’t have much insight into the number of people that use lists or how they use them. I suspect it’s a small, nerdy cohort of people. I have a few public lists, but the vast majority of my own lists are private and they’re typically topics that reflect my interests or things I want to learn more about — productivity, COVID-19, technology, music, infosec, privacy, activism, etc. The best part of using lists is I see everything I want to see, in chronological order (if I choose), and almost nothing I don’t (including ads), unless I’m browsing the Home feed. This is how most people use Twitter and I think it’s how Twitter wants people to use its service.
The vast majority of people on Twitter are not going to take the time to curate and create lists, though to Twitter’s credit they make it pretty easy to build them. If you’re using Twitter in a browser, they even go so far as to suggest other people to add to your lists based on who is already on the list you are browsing.
If you feel like Twitter isn’t working for you, find that it’s bringing up negative emotions and is otherwise having a negative impact on your mental health, I highly recommend unfollowing everyone and starting over with lists. Simply put, lists make the Twitter experience a lot better. I know the thought of unfollowing everyone can feel overwhelming. I’ve definitely felt that way too. I had moments of major hesitation, especially the first time I did it, but each time I hesitated less and this time I didn’t hesitate at all. I was so convinced lists were going to provide a better experience and they absolutely have. It has been so helpful, I decided to document how I did it so others could give it a try.
While it’s only two steps (with some sub-steps), I suggest reading all the way through the instructions, carving out some time for yourself and start working through the process. If you get stuck at any point, send me a DM and I’ll give you a hand.
Step 1: Make a list of accounts that make you feel good
I’m going to make some assumptions about your familiarity with Twitter Lists functionality. You may want to read through Twitter‘s easy-to-follow instructions in advance of starting this process.
Begin by creating a list that’s basically going to be your new Home feed. In my case, I call this list “Fresh Start”. Add people to this list that meet the following general guidelines:
- You generally feel something positive when you read their tweets.
- Most of their tweets do not contain commentary on news or current events (create a separate list for news).
- Most of their tweets are original and are not retweets (did you know you can disable retweets for individual accounts?).
Depending on the number of people you follow, this can be done pretty quickly or it can be done over time — come across a tweet that makes you feel good, add that account to your list. I always look at the accounts my favorite accounts follow.
Step 2: Unfollow everyone
This is a little nerdy and technical, but it’s easy if you follow the instructions step-by-step. I even made a screen recording you can watch before you start just so you know what to expect. This process should be done in a desktop browser and not on a mobile device.
- Open a browser tab and go to Jamie Mason’s unfollow.js project on Github. You’ll see a button that says “Raw” on the right side of the area that contains the code. Go ahead and click that button. You should just see the code in your browser now.
- Open a new browser tab and go to https://twitter.com/YOUR_USER_NAME/following where YOUR_USER_NAME is your actual user name on Twitter. For example, I would open a browser tab and go to https://twitter.com/bradbarrish/following.
- Once you’re viewing the accounts you follow, scroll down to the bottom. As you get to the bottom and you still have more followers, the page will keep loading more and more of the accounts you follow. Keep scrolling down until all of your followers are visible. Depending on the number of followers you have, this could take a little time and feel like a seemingly endless scroll. Stick with it. While you can technically skip this step, it will likely make the process more time consuming in the long run.
- Now that all of your followers are visible, open the developer console on your browser. How you do this is going to depend on your operating system and browser. Here’s a great article on how to do it on the three major browsers (Chrome, Firefox and Safari) on Windows and macOS. If you’ve never done this before, you might get concerned you’re going to break something. You won’t. If you skipped watching my screen recording, now would be a good time to watch, again, just so you know what to expect here.
- All right, you’re nearly done. Switch to the browser tab with Jamie’s code and select all (Command-A on macOS and Ctrl-A on Windows or just go to the Edit menu and select the menu option for ‘Select all’ if you’re not familiar with keyboard commands).
- Now that everything is selected (it should look like everything is highlighted, copy the code (Command-C on macOS, Ctrl-C on Windows or ‘Copy’ from the Edit menu).
- With the code copied to your clipboard, switch back to the tab that has all of your Twitter followers and click on the command line at the bottom of the developer console, paste the code (Command-V on macOS, Ctrl-V on Windows or ‘Paste’ from the Edit menu), press return on your keyboard and watch the magic happen. You may have to paste and run the code more than once, especially if you are following lots of people. Keep pasting and pressing return until everyone you follow is gone.
If you’re anything like me, it’s going to take some adjusting to not using the Home feed as your main way of interfacing with Twitter. Now is the time to start reflecting on your areas of interest so you can start creating lists for each of those interests. You can also follow public lists that other people create. When you create your own lists, you can determine if the list is public or private.
An easy starting point for your first list, aside from the one you created before you unfollowed everyone, is news. Even though I try to avoid news on Twitter, I do have a list that includes news publications, journalists, news networks and other accounts tracking current events and breaking news. It’s good to have a list that’s only for news because once you do, you can make a more conscious choice to look at news when you want and have much better control over the sources.
Congratulations, you’re now on your way to using Twitter better and hopefully being more happy doing so. My DMs are open, so if you have questions or any feedback, I’m @bradbarrish on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you. If you found this post helpful, I’d appreciate you sharing it on Twitter or elsewhere.