Blocking for fun and profit

I like to block people.

Twitter is a fantastic place. It’s full of interesting people who share your interests. I’ve learned more, more quickly, on Twitter than I would have imagined. Sadly it also has more than its fair share of recreational pedants and downright bores, though I’ve even come to love many of those people over time. Sometimes though, people can turn nasty. More often they just badger you. “I think you’re wrong, first tweet of 233.” In these cases these solicitous use of the block button solves all manner of problems.

That’s why I can’t understand all the fuss about trolling. The block button is right there. Right. There. If someone is annoying you on Twitter you don’t have to interact with them. It’s one of the few places where this is possible. (How often I’ve longed for a block button in real life.) If they keep being retweeted into your timeline set up a keyword mute. Ignorance of certain people’s activities really is bliss.

Some people have told me they’re afraid to block, worried that people will call them out publicly for it. To them I say “Feel no shame!” It says far more about the person who’s calling them out. If someone you were chatting with at a party wandered off would you scream “Why aren’t you talking to me?”

That’s not to suggest that we should be callous about blocking. People can be quite vulnerable and emotionally exposed on Twitter. As an asynchronous short messaging platform it can also easily lead to misunderstandings. You need to be tough for robust online debate but it’s important that you also not take stuff to heart. That’s why blocking isn’t really about hurting someone else’s feelings, even if they perceive it that way. It’s about taking care of yourself, your mental state and your online interactions.

Some people have accused me of creating a Twitter echo chamber by blocking people who don’t agree with me. I’d like to imagine that’s not true, though it’s certainly something to keep in mind. It’s important to engage with different views and opinions, otherwise we’ll end up with US-style partisan tribalism. I’m mostly interested in fostering some measure of civility in my online interactions and blocking is an important part of my toolkit.

As most of us who’ve been online for a while understand, trolling isn’t really about bullying. It’s goading and often playful, though I readily acknowledge it can have a twisted side. A quick visit to 4chan will confirm that. That why simply abusing people online isn’t trolling, it’s being a dickhead. And dickheads deserve to be blocked.

Take control of your interactions. If you don’t like a newspaper columnist, you skip their column. If someone’s annoying, you don’t seek out their company. The same applies on Twitter. Block on!

Photo: Keith McDuffee

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