It all started as a way for people to connect –- sending private messages, posting status updates and sharing photos to bond with friends back home or strangers across the world.
But now more people are opting out.
And they’re doing it politely, thanks to new features like Twitter’s mute button, announced Monday, which erases someone’s tweets from a user’s timeline without that person knowing.
On Facebook, users can “hide” a friend, stopping their posts from showing up in the user’s feed.
People who use Google’s Gmail chat feature can become “invisible,” making that green dot –- seemingly a “go” sign for chatty friends –- disappear.
What these features do is place the power in the user’s hands –- without burning a friend. Hiding someone is not as harsh as unfriending that person on Facebook. Muting someone on Twitter isn’t the same as unfollowing. In fact, your friends won’t even know they’ve been silenced.
That’s a great thing, according to Anna Post, of the Emily Post Institute, who told ABC News there are repercussions of directly shunning someone on social media.
“When it comes to unfriending and unfollowing, if it’s someone you’re in regular online contact with, they may well notice and wonder what happened,” she said. “People are going to assume something’s wrong if you do that and you haven’t deleted your account altogether.”
“If this is a tool that lets you keep ties to someone while turning a deaf ear for a few minutes, I don’t see any harm in that,” Post said of Twitter’s new mute feature, which rolls out to all users in the next few weeks.
While other social networks are likely to adopt similar features that let users control what they see without hurting a friend’s feelings, some take a more direct approach.
Apps such as Cloak and Hell is Other People, billed as “anti-social networks,” pull data from Foursquare to help people avoid running into their friends in person.