How should blocking and muting work on social media platforms?

If you’ve used the internet at any point in your life (how are you reading this otherwise?), you’ve likely come across someone who harasses, spams, or just in general bothers you. And when this happens, whether it’s a spam email selling male enhancement drugs or someone stalking your profile and sending threatening messages, most websites have devised a way to block / mute the harassing account / user.

But what do the concepts of blocking and muting really mean? Well, that depends heavily on the platform you are using:

  • On Twitter:
    • Blocking a user will still allow that user to see your profile, along with the fact that you’ve blocked them. You’ll unfollow them if you were following them, and you won’t receive notifications regarding them, even if you are mentioned directly.
      • There also doesn’t seem to be a block limit for Twitter, so you can block as many accounts as you want (there may be some upper limit, but people have apparently not reached a limit even into the 10s of thousands).
    • Muting a user will not let them know in any way that they’ve been muted. The user will still be able to follow you, but you’ll now not receive their tweets or most notifications about the user on the application.
      • There does not seem to be a limit to muting users on Twitter
      • You can additionally mute words on Twitter (e.g. “cat” will block tweets with the word cat in it, along with #cat), but there does seem to be an upper limit of ~100-200 words that you can mute.
  • On Reddit:
    • Blocking a user will make your profile and content/comments unavailable to them, and their profile and content/comments unavailable to you.
      • There is an upper limit of 1000 users that you can block
      • While your content will appear as [unavailable] to the blocked user, if you come across comments from the blocked user, they will merely appear collapsed, and you can un-collapse the comment to view them.
      • The blocking will prevent both the blocker and the blocked user from upvoting, giving awards, and messaging each other.
    • Muting kind of exists, but is mainly for muting communities you have subscribed or been recommended to, vs being able to mute individual users.
      • Moderators can also mute specific users in their communities, which prevents the users from contacting the moderators for ban appeals, etc. The main options for muting appear to be for 3, 7, and 28 days.
  • On Facebook:
    • Blocking a user will prevent them from being able to see things you post on your timeline, tag you, invite you to events or groups, start a conversation with you, or add you as a friend.
    • Muting kind of exists, but is called “snoozing” instead, where users / pages / groups and more can be “snoozed” for 30 days, which allows you to not see posts in your feed about that user / page / group.
  • On Snapchat:
    • Blocking a user means they won’t be able to view your Story or charms, or send you snaps or chats.
    • Muting doesn’t quite seem to exist exactly on Snapchat, but you can turn off notifications for specific chats, and you are able to mute a user’s story
      • Editors note: It seems unclear what “muting a user’s story” means here, as multiple stories can appear in chats. Are you muting just one story, or all stories from a user?
  • On Mastadon:
    • Blocking a user will basically hide them from your feed, and additionally will hide any “toots” that mention the user you’ve blocked, along with removing any notifications about that user, not showing that user in other timelines, basically most contexts you’d interact with a user. From the blocked user’s perspective, they’ll be forced to unfollow you (and won’t be able to follow you afterwards), won’t see you in public timelines or boosted toots, etc.
      • Additionally, as a user you can block entire Mastadon servers as well, which is basically the same as the user block, but for the entire server (e.g. you won’t see posts or notifications from that server, you will lose all followers of your account from that server, etc)
    • Muting a user similarly exists on Mastadon, but is a bit confusing. When comparing the list of things muting accomplishes vs blocking, the main differences appear to be:
      • Muting appears to still allow notifications around the muted user (vs blocking), except if you additionally mute notifications as well.
      • Muted users have no way of knowing they’ve been muted (vs blocking, which potentially is federated?)
      • Muting can occur for an optional duration of time (e.g. if you just want to mute a user for 24 hours.)
  • On Instagram:
    • Blocking a user will not notify them, and blocking will remove likes and comments from that User from all posts on your account (unblocking them will not restore them, so tread carefully). Additionally, blocked users won’t be able to tag your account, you and the blocked user will not be able to message each other, and in group chats you’ll be asked if you wish to leave if a blocked user is in the group chat.
    • Muting on Instagram appears similar to muting on Snapchat — you can mute messages from a user, and also mute a user’s story as well, along with additionally being able to mute notes from a user, but most of these options appear to only exist on the iPhone and Android Instagram app.

I could go on and on, but we can start to see some patterns develop from the above list, which brings us to the question:

Given the above, how should blocking and muting work online?

Outlining common patterns:

Let’s first outline the common patterns that we see from outlining the social media platforms above, and perhaps use these as starting points to answer the question at hand:


When a user is blocked on a social media platform, most sites attempt to make it opaque to the blocked user that they were blocked (outside of Twitter). The level of opaqueness varies per platform, but generally involves hiding / “disappearing” the blocker and the blocked user from each other in most contexts (e.g. preventing messaging, hiding comments and posts, disabling notifications, etc).

While this uncertainty for the end user of being blocked has resulted in a lot of Google searches around “..How do I know if I’ve been blocked on X/Y/Z?”, it should be noted that it’s usually pretty trivial to figure out if you have been blocked, as since blocking a user involves selecting a user’s account / handle / email / etc, most people can determine if they’ve been blocked by either logging into another account on the platform at hand and seeing if the person’s profile shows up any differently, or by just logging out and viewing the potential blocker’s public profile, and seeing if things are visible there that are not visible once logged in.

The above being said, the ideology of blocking seems to revolve around:

  • For the blocker:
    • Never having to see comments / posts / mentions / notifications from the blocked user in their feed or while they use the platform
    • Having the blocked user’s content be hidden from view to the blocker
  • For the blocked user:
    • Having the blocker’s content (posts / comments / pictures / videos / etc) be hidden from view to the blocked user
    • As best as possible, preventing the blocked user from realizing they’ve been blocked
      • If they do realize, they don’t care (they roll their eyes or just move on with their life)
      • If they do realize and care, it takes some amount of effort to re-engage with the blocker (e.g. creating a new account)


When a user is muted on social media platforms, the prevailing methodology seems to be:

  • For the muter:
    • Never having to see comments / posts / mentions / notifications from the muted user in their feed or while they use the platform
  • For the muted user:
    • Still allowing the muter’s content be visible
    • Still allowing the muted user to interact with the muter, but have all those interactions go into a “black hole” where the muter never sees these interactions

Other potential considerations:

  • Blocking and muting should have the option to “decay” with time
    • There are users that I’ve blocked on social media platforms from many years back, that still exist on my blocklist. Many users are no longer active on the platform, or have stopped caring about me, or I’ve stopped caring about them, or they’ve gotten banned by the platform, among other things.
    • And yet, there’s no great mechanism to go back and curate a block or mute list. The best effort so far is that some versions of muting or “snoozing” allow for you to mute for limited amount of time (e.g. 1 hour, 1 week, 1 year, etc), but the dates they choose seem arbitrary — e.g. how will I know when (or if) a spammer or person I’ve muted stops being annoying?
  • Blocking / hiding / filtering strategies will apply to more than just the “user” level.
    • Things like “banning”, “shadow-banning”, restricting a user, roles, etc. Lots of these will influence how a user can / cannot interact with users and the platform itself, but how they function will perhaps heavily overlap with blocking and muting.
    • Similarly, “filtering” content on your feed might rely on a lot of similar factors as well — “liking” certain content to boost it, “disliking” content to decrease when that content shows up, hiding certain keywords / brands / topics / groups to again “curate” your platform experience.

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