Why You Might Want To Set Your Twitter Account to Private

I’m constantly looking for new and interesting people to follow on Twitter. Most of the time I find people to follow via Twitter search.  I search for a topic I’m interested in, which can be anything from astronomy to The Watchmen movie and then follow the people that are actively tweeting about the subjects.

It doesn’t happen very often but every now and then someone well send me a message asking “How did you find me?” which is an understandable question but sometimes I’ll get a message like “Why the hell are you following me!” as if I just broke into their house and they caught me in their living room.

If you’ve found yourself surprised at times to find people following you, didn’t know how they found you or were annoyed by someone following you without permission, don’t feel silly, you’re actually in good company.  It turns out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was just as shocked to find @JohnMcCrea following his ‘secret’ Twitter account recently, posting in response:


According to VentureBeat:

Plaxo’s John McCrea stumbled upon Zuckerberg’s account when he was searching for a past Twitter conversation with another Facebook employee

Twitter is an open social system and one of the original design elements was to allow people to follow the people they were interested in.  This is why you don’t have to send a friend request you simply follow the person.  This simple difference in Twitter’s design is a big factor in it’s success.  You have to admit being able to follow Dave Matthews, MC Hammer or Shaquille O’Neal is pretty freakin’ cool.

For not so obvious reasons people also like to follow Twitterers who, though not famous, have similar interests i.e. other Corvette owners or Rugby fans.

There are plenty of good reasons why you would want to keep your tweets off of the public timeline. If you don’t want random people following you, you should set your Twitter account to private.

Twitter makes this very easy to do. Simply go to the settings page on your Twitter account, check the box at the bottom of the page and save your changes.


Don’t worry, your friends will still be able to find your Twitter account,  you’ll just have to grant them permission to view it.  Doing this will completely eliminate any unwanted Twitter followers.

29 Responses to Why You Might Want To Set Your Twitter Account to Private

  1. Julie says:

    To me this sort of defeats the purpose of twitter. If you only want to converse with specific people about specific things there are networks like yahoo messenger and gtalk that allow for private, accept only linking. One of the things that makes twitter so cool is seeing what people are doing who you never would have met have or interacted with otherwise.

    If you want to keep something private don’t tweet about it. You can always block individuals if you must.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with

      One of the things that makes twitter so cool is seeing what people are doing who you never would have met have or interacted with otherwise.

      If I want to talk to a Twitter peep about something private I either DM them or go to an Instant Messenger client.

  2. Megan says:

    I started asking why people were following me when I got over 50 new followers in less than 24 hours (and still counting, including you!!). Hah… But also because I follow them back and who knows if I should!

    I’m interested in how followers found me because I want to know if we have something in common or if they’re just trying to get more followers. If they’re only writing about the NY Mets, then no, I don’t want to follow them unless it’s MLB season and they’re losing to the Phillies. But if they’re tweeting about working out, then yea, I’m interested.

    Ya know?

  3. Dave says:

    Protecting your privacy is a good policy. however, it prevents you from being able to create a twitter chatroom by using hash tags and a third party site like tweetgrid.com

  4. Bryan says:

    Great post. I posted today about twitter followers as well and why it’s not a good idea to have so many. While my article wasn’t on how to limit your followers you doing bring up a very good point about keeping your timeline private so you can control who follows you. This is a great tool to help filter out the spam/bots and ensure you have quality followers.

  5. John Dobbs says:

    I have resisted that because I thought it would make it impossible for people to find me via interests and such as that. So you’re saying they can still find us in searches such as you mentioned above … it just blocks us from the public timeline?

  6. Great write-up. I’ve always wondered about those “private” accts. Now makes perfect sense.

    For myself, since I’ve varied interests, one thing that attracts and holds my attention is the public nature of Twitter.

    Thank you!

  7. Good info for tweeps. But I’m curious as to why you would want to limit the people who can follow you.

    People in this environment should follow the advice they would give their teenagers…”don’t reveal personal info that you don’t want other people to have.”

    If someone wants to write personal info, they should do it in a DM or another way… possibly use facebook for that.

    You can always “block” people that are bothering you.

    just wondered why people feel the need to screen and would want to limit themselves anyway.

  8. I don’t see what the big deal is. If someone follows you and you don’t think they are interesting or what not just don’t follow them back. Then you won’t have to hear from them unless they @you or DM you. If they are a spammer then go and click the Block button. If you don’t want to have people you don’t know follow you then set your profile to private. There’s no reason to ask someone how they found your profile. Clearly it was from Twitter Search or Tweep Search, or a hand full of other similar sites. It’s also possible that you have a username similar to someone else and they mistyped it and followed you instead of who they intended. I had someone @justinkendall (me) today when they meant to @justindkendall. One missed letter and you have a whole different person. Even if your profile is set to private you’re still going to get people that try to follow you. It happens on every site.

  9. Sheamus says:

    Nice article Jesse, and I’ve been thinking of writing something similar myself, albeit from a more critical angle. I must admit aside from having a separate Twitter account for work colleagues or similar I can’t really see why anybody would choose to set their updates to private. If you don’t want people to read your Tweets, I’d suggest Twitter probably isn’t for you. There are lots more services where you can have private chats with your close personal friends.

    To me, Twitter is all about socialisation, and unless your circumstances are extreme – i.e., you’re worried about a certain person tracking you down from your real life (but again, Twitter might not be right for you) – I think by hiding away you’re essentially defeating the best thing about being on there: meeting new people.

    I’ve met loads of cool folks on Twitter, certainly in the last couple of months since the network has really started to take off, and it’s consistently a blast.

    As Julie says above, it’s very easy to block troublesome individuals. I really believe that private accounts on Twitter are, for the most part, not going to get the most out of what the service has to offer.

  10. Vandy says:

    Great article. I agree with Sheamus and many others who say that twitter is not for people who do not want other people to see their tweets. I mean they could try Facebook it will help them stay completely secluded and only their friends can talk to them. I really love this article and was thinking about the same thing. Great work Jesse!!!

  11. It’s not that the account needs to be private, but you may not want everyone and there wife searching through countless @replies to find out what your message was about via an update. Can these @replies be hidden from your history or should you always DM people ?


  12. Mrdavid68 says:

    I think that if you don’t want people to read your tweets then try another social media site! I don’t have a problem with anyone reading mine. And if I can’t say something constructive, then I wont say anything at all.

  13. Johan Lont says:

    I know a student who set her twitter account to private after an incident of rape on campus, and another attempted rape that involved a bit of stalking (not cyberstalking, but the real thing). Even though she avoids posting personal information like addresses and so on, one can easily find out from her posts what what university she attends, what she majors in, and at what time of night she leaves the campus library, for instance.
    I think personal security can be a reason to make a twitter account private. People can still follow her, but she needs to click the Accept button first.

  14. One application of a private stream would be for marketing purposes.

    I actually joined a membership site that had a private tweet stream for members only with links & info that you sometimes wouldn’t get via the traditional route.

    With this in mind what other applications could this open up?

    By the way for traditional uses of twitter I agree, private doesn’t really make much sense to me either.

  15. I really enjoyed reading this! Thanks for breaking it down the way you did. I look forward to twittering

  16. Susanimate says:

    I really don’t get the privacy thing either. Why go onto a public social networking site and opt for privacy? If you don’t want to annoy people or are just trying to engage one person then use the DM feature. Private account holders are suspect if you ask me. I can’t trust people who hide, can you?

  17. safas says:

    I would agree with MS.Julie. Making your twitters private kinda defeats the purpose of twitter. Althugh I have to admit I think the only reason most people are following me lately is to get there follower numbers up.

  18. I joined Twitter specifically for learning from others I haven’t met yet, and meeting people in k-12 education. Still trying to find a search that will tell me who else in my local area is tweeting and who the teachers are. In spite of that I’ve found a lot of people I’m learning so much from it boggles my mind. If I want to talk only to the people I know, I use Facebook.

  19. Roberta Hill says:

    An articulate argument in support of protected tweets from @melaniemcbride who clearly is “no n00b” http://sn.im/dxwon

  20. Julie says:

    Great conversation! I am intrigued by the use of privacy settings to create a members-only information stream. Could be used for special promotions and “Insider Sales” for businesses. Hmm what else?

  21. Ana says:

    I want to know how it works when you are private and you reply to someone you are followi cg (who is not following you) by using the @ _____ Can they reply to you if you are private?

  22. cece says:

    contrary to almost everyone here, i am interested in privacy on twitter.
    in fact what i want to find out is if it is possible to block people from finding you through search? can you make your account somewhat invisible except only to those you decided to follow??
    any alternatives to using anonymous email address and a nickname?

    i sort of want to use twitter very very often but let only a select number of people to be updated on what i am doing
    but neither do i want to face the awkwardness of rejecting acquaintances` requests to follow me. so they simply should not be able to find me

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