Towards Subtractive Social Media

Venkatesh Rao

Republished from https://breakingsmart.substack.com.



“Subtractive Social Media” is social media that has a balanced set of features … you can grow your social experiences as well as shrink them.

Like making a sculpture. When you’re creating a sculpture out of clay, you’re adding on lumps of clay and building up the mass. But there are also subtractive capabilities, where you carve things away to express the form.

Additive social media

Tweeting something
Clicking on something
Liking something
Accumulating more followers
Your history grows

Subtractive social media:

Unfollowing someone
Deleting a tweet
Unretweeting something
Blocking someone
Muting someone


Most modern social media platforms have a strong additive bias. There are more additive than subtractive features.

The growing features are usually very refined. For example, you can search for tweets and follow people. You can make lists of people you want to follow. On the other hand, if you want to cut back, your tools are much more limited. You have to go through your list manually. It’s hard to automatically unfollow everyone who doesn’t have a profile picture, for example.

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