Twitter is the home of ‘Cancel Culture’, and whether you understand the evolution of that trend or not, you’ve no doubt had some experiences on the platform where you’ve been mentioned by people that you’d rather not have been mentioned by, whether that be spammers, former friends/colleagues, incorrect tags, etc.
Now, in line with its relatively recent addition of the capacity to control who can reply to your tweets, Twitter is also experimenting with new controls over who can @mention you on the platform, which could help people avoid unwanted attention, and limit negative experiences in the app.
As outlined by Twitter’s Dominic Camozzi, the platform is working on a few different variations for mention controls, starting with this prototype for ‘unmentioning’ yourself from a tweet chain.
As you can see in this sequence, the new process would provide a new “Unmention yourself from this conversation” option in the tweet drop-down menu, so you could extricate yourself from any further engagement with the specific exchange. Your @handle would then be unlinked from the chat, though it would still remain, unclickable, in the original tweet text.
You can already do this when you’re tagged in images on the platform, via the ‘Remove tag from photo‘ option, but this would give users the capacity to distance themselves from any direct association with selected Tweet discussions as well, providing more capacity to manage your in-app experience. That could be good for avoid spammers, but also trolls who you may not care to block, but just don’t want to engage with over a specific element. Or, the conversation could take a turn into more controversial or offensive territory and you simply don’t want anything to do with it.
In addition to this, Twitter’s also looking to add a new notification for when you’re mentioned by somebody who you don’t follow.
Under this process, when you expand a tweet mention from your notifications, there’ll be an option on the tweet itself to ‘Unmention yourself’.
As you can see here, once you choose to unmention yourself in a tweet via this button, that specific Tweet author would not be able to mention you again, unless you updated your settings again. Which could be a more extreme response to a single mention – but then again, if it’s a spammer or someone misusing tweets, it could be a quick and easy way to cut them off entirely, which could be an improvement.
Twitter’s also looking to add new controls for who you allow to mention you, with variable audience limitation selections (‘Everyone’, ‘People you follow’ or ‘Custom’) that you would be able to put in place for 1, 3, or 7 days at a time.
That could be another way to address trolls and people who may be responding to a specific event.
And finally, Twitter’s also looking to help people avoid the Cancel Culture pile-on, with a new option that would enable you to stop anyone from mentioning you for a day a time.
As you can see here, this process would provide users with an alert for when their @handle is getting a lot of tweet mentions. Users would then be able to review those mentions, and alter their mention settings to restrict those who might be looking to dunk on them with their witty tweets, with an all-encompassing ‘Pause all mentions’ option at the bottom of screen.
Camozzi says that this option could help users stop situations from escalating, as in the aforementioned Twitter pile-ons, which are often not aimed at the original tweeter, as such, but are fueled by pack behavior on the platform, and people looking to make a stand on whatever issue is the focus of anger for that day. But the Twitter hate cycle is generally very short, with people moving on to the next controversy very fast – so it may well be that by simply stopping people from mentioning your @handle for 24 hours, that could, at times, be enough to deflate the situation, and avoid any major psychological, and/or brand blowback.
And it can be harmful. Anyone who’s spent enough time on Twitter will likely have found themselves as the focus of the Twittersphere’s angry gaze at one time or another, and whether your comment or action was intentional or not, and whether you considered the consequences of your tweet or didn’t, the flood of criticism and backlash can be hard to take, especially as it morphs into other forms of accusation and judgment of your perceived character traits.
Basically, nobody wants to be ‘cancelled’ for a mistaken tweet, and these options could help to avoid that, or at least give users some additional control over how they’re mentioned, with the hopes that any angst will die down, and they won’t remain the focus of the mob for too long.
But that could also lead to other consequences. If a brand handle, for example, decided to deactivate mentions in the midst of a crisis, would that make it better or worse in the long run? Users will obviously be aware that the brand has switched off @mentions, and that could stoke the fires even more, and make the focus issue into a bigger controversy, that lasts even longer as a result.
It’s impossible to know, of course, because the response will vary on a case-by-case basis. But there are some circumstances where burying your head in the sand won’t help – but then again, for individual users, it could, as noted, provide enough time to let the issue blow over, and avoid any ongoing issues.
Twitter is still only experimenting with these options at this stage, with these images early concept mock-ups, so it may change entirely, of none of these elements might ever get released. But it feels like there is some benefit here – it’s just matching up the options to take a step back from any controversy, while also not appearing like you’re avoiding responsibility, in the hopes that you won’t be held accountable for your actions.
No doubt, accountability is important, but Twitter’s form of accountability can often be disproportionate, and damaging as a result.
But in each case, who ultimately decides on what’s an adequate response will likely come down to your own opinions and leanings. Which could make this a controversial option at times, if implemented.