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Something wonderful happened today: Instagram announced that in the coming weeks, you’ll be able to mute posts and stories from anyone you follow. Finally, finally, finally.
Obviously, a mute button eases Instagram’s often-fraught social dynamics in a big way. Sometimes you follow a friend or acquaintance — perhaps they added you first, or maybe you mistakenly thought it was a good idea — and then you realize that their content is garbage. Previously, you’d have to decide between unfollowing them (thereby improving your life but potentially making things weird if they ever found out) and putting up with their junk posts forever.
No longer! Instagram says that users won’t know if they were muted, so you can maintain the charade of caring about their anniversaries and brunches while lowering your daily stress levels.
The mute feature seems mainly applicable to real-life acquaintances, because if you wanted to unfollow an influencer or brand, why wouldn’t you? They don’t care about you as an individual. However, one Vox Media employee told me that she plans to mute a particularly active clothing consignment Instagram because she doesn’t want to get all of its posts but also doesn’t want to forget its name. Fair enough.
For more perspectives on the Great Muting of 2018, I went around the Vox Media office asking people who’s on their list. Names are sometimes redacted because while nobody will know if you mute them, they’ll definitely know if you tell the news media you’re going to mute them.
“Friends” and family
“Friends you haven’t talked to in two to three years. You have a history, but you don’t know them anymore. You’re different people now. But history makes it rude to unfollow.” —Brittany Holloway-Brown, Eater
“I’m not on Facebook, so I get a lot of follows from people from my childhood who I feel obligated to follow back.” —Lauren Ro, Curbed
“I don’t know if this is a thing all over Instagram, but couples who have a joint account. Why can’t you have your own Instagram?” —Marine Gonzalez, Vox Media office operations
“I’m definitely going to mute my girlfriend’s sister. She posts, like, a dozen photos a day and they’re all really bad.” —Anonymous
“There are a few people that I want to mute because they post way too much and their content is annoying. Like, mostly people who are humble-bragging, but especially people who do stories so often that they always pop up to the top of my stories. I don’t need to be involved in their day-to-day like that. I’m happy to celebrate for them when it’s warranted, but I just don’t have that much to give to one person every day, because they’re posting 10 times a day.” —Sarah Bishop Woods, The Verge
“Definitely people’s businesses. My cousin’s husband has this motorbike shop, and he posts, like, six times a day about motorbikes. I couldn’t be less interested, but I feel bad unfollowing him.” —Anonymous
“People who post inspirational quotes. People who promote MLMs.” —Anonymous
“There are a few people I follow and like but are basically Professionally Happy Relationship Havers, and I think muting is the right middle ground to deploy here.” —Anonymous
“People with babies, after the first six months. You follow the baby account, and then you’re like, enough.” —Sonia Chopra, Eater
“Honestly, sometimes I want to mute Beyoncé. She posts, like, six times in a few seconds.” —Anonymous
“There are no good brand Instagrams.” —Anonymous
“I’m muting lots of PR people. I end up following them because of our business relationships, but I do not care what they post. If anything, they’re posting stuff I actively don’t want to see. I don’t want to burn bridges by unfollowing them. You can unfollow an ex-boyfriend, but you can’t unfollow a business contact whom you’re going to work with often. I’ll also go ahead and unfollow former colleagues who I don’t have any actual relationship with.” —Anonymous
“Half of the people in this office right now, and also some former co-workers. I’d probably mute The Verge. I could probably just unfollow The Verge. It’s probably former co-workers whose lives I’m not involved with at this point, and former co-workers who post ugly pictures. And also people who post way too much.” —Jake Kastrenakes, The Verge
Exes and their kind
“I literally just unfollowed my ex because I couldn’t mute her. I didn’t want to do anything that dramatic, but it was becoming annoying. Three days ago I was like, ‘I wish I could mute her.’” —Anonymous
“Friends of ex-boyfriends who are not bad people but who are 1,000 percent irrelevant to my life.” —Anonymous
“I’ve unfollowed so many people that I wouldn’t have too many to mute. I guess I don’t follow that many people I actually know — I very much follow tattoo artists and fashion bloggers, and that’s what I want to see. I’ve had an Instagram account since it first came out, so I’ve seen Facebook friends join it and just been like, ‘I’m not following you.’ I don’t follow the more annoying people.” —Kat Borgerding, Recode
“The thing is, I’ll just unfollow you. I’ll have people from high school, college, or a job I’ve worked, and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll follow you.’ If I do and later on I don’t like their posts, I’ll just unfollow. It’s not that big a deal. And there’s also Facebook: I keep everyone on Facebook just in case I need to get in contact about a job or something.” —Sophia Leewah, Vox Media office operations
“I’m not going to mute anyone because I keep my feed very specific. I’m not going to add superfluous people. I wonder who’s going to mute me.” —Annemarie Dooling, Vox Media audience development manager