Twitter has become incredibly popular, with more than 336 million active users each month. The social media platform—where users can post, react to and reply to “tweets” in the form of short messages, photos or videos—poses some serious privacy concerns. While Facebook and Instagram may be at the helm of newsworthy privacy issues, events such as the recent FaceApp controversy (in which users tweeted out the results of a Russian photo-editing app that artificially aged their faces) should serve as a reminder that Twitter is still a social media platform. Before you use it, your privacy should be top-of-mind.
In fact, as recently as January of this year, Twitter released a statement warning of a security flaw that could have caused many “private” messages to actually be public. And although this vulnerability only affected Android users, it’s not far-fetched to wonder what’s next for the klugey world of privacy on social media. In light of this, you may be wondering if it’s worth it to make Twitter private.
When it comes to a platform that allows you to spread ideas and thoughts in rapid-fire fashion, whether comedic, persuasive or inflammatory, Twitter is undoubtedly an excellent choice. As long as you’re able to keep it under 280 characters (and come up with effective hashtags), you can say anything to your intended audience. But knowing what can happen when your words reach unintended recipients (you can lose your job, or worse) is enough to convince most users to add a layer of privacy to their account. Sure, doing so means manually accepting new follow requests and limiting your interactions, but it’s probably worth the hassle to ensure the information you post online doesn’t make it into the wrong hands.
The pros and cons of having a private Twitter account
Should you make Twitter private? There are some compelling arguments for and against it:
Pros of a private Twitter account
- A less-cluttered feed: When you have a private Twitter account, all interactions are strictly between you and your followers. No one else can view, reply to or retweet your tweets.
- Reduced harassment potential: While Twitter does have features in place designed to address harassment, having a private account is the best way to avoid this annoyance.
- You’re in control: With all the scary stuff happening in the world of online privacy these days, it’s nice to have the option to control what people are able to access about you.
Cons of a private Twitter account
- Limited engagement: Taking your Twitter account private definitely stands at odds with the way the platform was designed to function, which is to let anyone view your tweets, regardless of network. This is especially problematic for anyone trying to build a following on Twitter. Doing so is more challenging with a private account.
- Loss of social features: When your account is private, you can’t be retweeted, only favorited. However, you can retweet others’ tweets.
- You can still be found in a reverse username search: If your Twitter username is similar to or the same as that of other accounts, someone may still be able to discover your identity by performing a reverse username search on your Twitter handle.
How to make your Twitter account private
While the decision to make Twitter private can be difficult, actually doing so is quite simple. Follow these steps if you’re wondering how to make your Twitter account private.
- Once you’re logged in to Twitter, click “More” at the bottom of the list on the left-hand side of your screen.
- Scroll down to “Settings and privacy.”
- Navigate to “Privacy and safety.”
- Click the checkbox next to “Protect your Tweets.”
- When prompted, click “Protect.”
Alternatives to going private
Not sure you’re ready to make Twitter private? It’s understandable if you’re trying to build a following or promote your business on the platform. Luckily, Twitter offers a few other options you can use to curate a clean, relevant user experience without feeling like you’re in hiding.
Twitter’s unique mute feature makes it possible to hide someone’s tweets from your feed, without removing your content from theirs. It’s a helpful way to cut down on feed fillers or random content you don’t need or want to see. Moreover, unlike blocking, the person or account you’ve muted won’t be able to tell.
Blocking someone on Twitter is more serious than muting them. For starters, blocking someone will remove their tweets from your feed and vice versa. If that user tries to access your feed, they’ll get a notification that they’ve been blocked. That said, it’s the only way to completely ensure they’re unable to interact with your content or send you messages.
Twitter has a robust system for reporting harmful and/or abusive content. Tweets, profiles and even direct messages (DMs) can all be reported with just the click of a button. You may be asked for additional details if you create a report. Depending on Twitter’s assessment of the content you reported, the user may have their account suspended or even removed.
Quality filter/advanced filter
Another excellent way to ensure you’re only seeing what you want when you open your Twitter feed is to apply the quality filter, which cuts down on low-quality tweets like spam. Advanced filtering options include the ability to mute notifications from new profiles or those with default profile pictures, both of which can indicate a fake account.
Twitter is a solid platform for users who want to maintain an online presence while taking steps to ensure their personal privacy isn’t completely compromised. While it’s true that taking your Twitter account private limits its functionality, it’s still a good option. Of course, there’s no way to be perfectly safe on the internet, but taking certain steps to protect your privacy is always wise.