How to hide Twitter’s trending topics

And why features like "what's happening" are user-hostile

It’s crazy how hard it is to avoid trending stuff or recommendations on some platforms. When I use Twitter, I typically use Tweetbot, but for various reasons I end up on twitter.com occasionally, and I always get annoyed at some of the crap present in the “What’s Happening”, “Who to Follow” and “Topics to follow” sections of twitter’s UI.

The obvious solution is to use content blockers like uBlock Origin, but the dynamically generated CSS class names (because of some CSS-in-JS framework) make it non-trivial for extensions to filter certain elements, as the class names of those elements change regularly.

However, a good look in the HTML source made me realise that there are consistent parts of the UI that can be used to select UI elements for removal, the aria-label attributes used for accessibility tools.

So with these 3 simple rules, you can hide the “What’s Happening”, “Who to Follow” and “Topics to follow” sections from the UI

twitter.com##div[aria-label="Timeline: Trending now"]
twitter.com##[aria-label="Who to follow"]
twitter.com##div[aria-label="Timeline: "]

(The last line here seems to hint at a minor bug on Twitter’s side — it seems the proper description for this element is missing — but until this is fixed, this line will target the “topics to follow” section)

And that’s it, these rules should work for uBlock Origin, but as far as I know, many content-or ad blockers such as Adblock Plus follow the same syntax.

Why would anyone want to block these things?

Like many people, I joined Twitter as a way of connecting with my friends and peers, and in the many years since then, Twitter has evolved its product to feel less and less like a personal space (or like Frank Chimero called it, the porch).

I can get pretty anxious about the news and all the stupid shit that’s going on in the world, so if there’s anything to do to keep any of the outrage, knee-jerk reactions or hot takes about current events out of my feed, I’ll take it. Pruning your feed or muting topics and keywords can only get you so far of course (something will always come through), but the fact that Twitter is forcing you to look at trending topics is a problem.

It’s so frustrating when you sit down to relax, and a service like Twitter or YouTube shoves “breaking” news in your face and you have to once again be confronted with what a stupid twat in power did this time or that some people got murdered. Of course, I can’t do anything about most of these things, especially if they happen in the US. That doesn’t stop me from emphasising and getting anxious or distracted.

The fact that you can’t tell services like YouTube and Twitter that you don’t want to see this stuff is troublesome1. Outrage and shock create engagement, but that doesn’t help anyone’s day, especially if they’re trying to relax.

I’m not on Twitter to be an activist, I still just want to see what peers or other cool creatives are up to, look at some funny stuff, and then continue living my best life instead of futilely ruminating on the state of the world for the rest of the day.

I don’t want to be blind to the global conversation. It’s obviously important to know what is going on so you can do your bit and fight your fight when necessary. That said, unless it’s actually urgent, I feel like I should be able to inform inform myself on my terms, and read about things when I’m up for it. That shouldn’t be so hard. I shouldn’t have to feel powerless when it comes to determining what type of stuff goes on my feed.

So yeah, that’s why I hide trending topics where I can. Hope this article was useful 😉

  1. I think sometimes YouTube.com allows you to hide the news section from your homescreen temporarily, but it will return after a while, and some apps (like the Apple TV app) don’t actually allow you to offer this kind of feedback.