Some corners of the internet act as bastions of healthy discussion, but out there on the wild web, discourse appears worse than ever before. If you’re tired of feeling your blood boil every time you get to the bottom of an article or open up your social media app of choice, here’s how to clean up your internet conversations.
Block comments on news sites and blogs
More and more sites are doing away with comments altogether, but there are plenty that have stuck by their discussion section—even if it’s littered with spam and hateful garbage. You can’t stop commenters from spewing their garbage, but you can banish them from your view. Shut Up is a simple, open-source tool that will automatically block most comment sections across the web. It’s available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and iOS. Just install it to your platform of choice, and comment sections will disappear as if they were never there.
If there’s a site that you actually like to read comments on—yes, there are still a few decent ones out there—you can click the Shut Up button in your toolbar or press Ctrl+Shift+X to whitelist that site. It will remember your preferences, so your favorite comment sections will reappear. Sadly, there’s no way to mute certain comments based on keywords.
Mute certain words on Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks
Blog comments are just a small fraction of toxic internet conversation—most of it happens on social networks. Shut Up will block comment sections on some networks, like Facebook and Reddit, but that defeats the purpose of having those networks at all. Thankfully some services, like Twitter and Instagram, have caught on and built “Mute” functions that let you hide comments with certain keywords in them for more control over what you see.
On Twitter, you can mute tweets with certain words or phrases by heading to the Twitter website, clicking your profile picture, and going to Settings and Privacy > Muted Words. (This option is not available in the mobile app, though it is available on the mobile website—and words you mute from the website will also be muted in the apps.) From that page you can add any word you want to avoid, and select how long you want to mute it—which is useful if you’re just trying to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers for a few days.
Instagram’s Mute feature is similar, though it only applies to comments on your posts (not other people’s). Head to Settings > Comment Controls and enable the “Manual Filter.” You can then enter words separated by commas to hide them from your comments. You can also flick a switch to hide the most reported words if you want to do a little less work.
Other social networks, like Reddit, don’t have a Mute feature built-in. However, browser extensions like the ever-popular Reddit Enhancement Suite will allow you to mute comments with certain words just the same. Install the extension and open the RES Settings Console. Navigate to Subreddits > filteReddit, and create filters to your heart’s content. You can hide posts with specific terms in the title, or block posts that come from chosen websites. You can also build filters for comments, provided you know how regular expressions work—there’s a small tutorial on this page.
Finally, Facebook is in a weird spot when it comes to muting or filtering comments. Back in June of 2018, Facebook began testing a feature called Keyword Snooze that would allow you to hide any comment containing words you specified. This feature isn’t available to everyone, though, but you can see if your account is one of the lucky ones by tapping the three dots in the corner of a Facebook post—if you see an option to “Snooze keywords in this post,” you’re golden. If not, you still have options to “See fewer posts like this,” or snooze and unfollow certain people that clog up your timeline.
Until that feature rolls out to everyone, a popular browser extension called Social Fixer can create very powerful keyword filters from the Filters section of its settings. Like Reddit’s Enhancement Suite, these can get a bit complex and require a certain syntax, but you can read more about your options here. And again, if you’re wary about installing extensions from developers you don’t know, you can browse the code yourself and install it separately.
Remember, any time you install a browser extension to gain this feature, it’ll only mute posts on that specific computer—so Social Fixer and Reddit Enhancement Suite won’t help you in mobile apps, where the extensions can’t be installed. We can only hope that companies like Facebook continue to build these features into their apps, so we don’t have to rely on third parties and workarounds to do it for us. But for now, it’s better than nothing.