The block function is an important part of social media. It keeps us safe from harassment and helps us control who sees our information, but using the block feature is seen as taboo. Why is it that we don’t like blocking others, and how should we feel when we get blocked?
Hands up if you’ve ever blocked someone on social media. Looking around this hypothetical room, I am assuming that most (if not all of us) have a hand firmly in the air. Blocking people is a necessary function of the social platforms that are now integrated into our lives, yet there is still a stigma surrounding the practice. I’m sure most of us have been in a situation where we’ve blocked someone on one platform and received a message from the same user on a different one, gloating that they’ve got us rumbled. It’s as if blocking is something to be ashamed of, instead of just a function we can use to make our time online more positive.
I’m a big advocate for giving yourself a positive environment to live and work in, and ignoring unwarranted negativity. Aside from constructive criticism we can learn and grow from, we wouldn’t accept insults and harassment in reality, so why should we online? Blocking users is often necessary to create a positive environment for ourselves, which is not something to be ashamed of.
No one is entitled to see your social media, and you’re quite free to block people as you see fit. There might be an argument against blocking people for simple disagreements, but no one really has the right to demand access to your information. I’m by no means a prolific blocker, but have blocked and been criticised for blocking people in the past. I’m comfortable in my decision to block people, and you should be too.
Why I’ve Blocked People
If you were to take a look through my blocked lists on Instagram and Twitter, most of the accounts you will see are actually spam or porn sites I blocked after they followed me or sent me a message. This is an effort to ensure my follower count remains genuine and to avoid being associated with this side of social media. However, there are a handful of other blocked profiles among them which have been blocked for more person reasons.
Put simply, I block people whom I don’t want seeing what I’m up to. My school bully is blocked on all platforms for this reason, along with people who I know have taken a disliking to me – especially when there are cliques of them. I know what humans are like, and I have witnessed people trawl through their “enemies” feeds looking for weaknesses and reasons to make fun of them. I’m not here for it, so I block those I suspect would be doing this to me.
On Twitter, I’ve blocked people who actively stalk my feed and use the information they get to try and challenge me or show me to be a bad person. For example, if someone I knew in reality were to approach me and challenge me on how I was spending my free time, using my Tweets as evidence, I’d be very uncomfortable. In the past I’ve been criticised by others for watching too much TV, spending time watching documentaries when I’ve cancelled social plans from illness or exhaustion, or just plain verbally attacked for a retweet that’s been misinterpreted. Feeling watched by specific people is unnerving, so in these instances I’ve blocked users, particularly for repeat offenders!
Facebook blocks tend to be more personal due to the nature of the platform. The three people I’ve blocked are the school bully, another person from school who’d comment on everything I’d post with the same unkind phrase, and a former colleague who got far too creepy and pushy in their attraction to me. I’m not particularly active on there, so a block on Facebook is uncommon, but significant.
When have I been blocked?
Most people who use social media will have been blocked by someone, whether they’re aware of it or not. It could be that they’ve been blocked because of a conflict of values, or perhaps just down to associating with someone at the heart of a wider blocking web.
I have been blocked three times, of which I’m aware of, though I’d hazard a guess there may have been more. All three of these occasions followed the blockers sending me a nasty message – presumably in fear that I might respond, or point out that they’d been unkind. I feel that this is probably quite common, and that people who choose to send cruel messages don’t want to face consequences for their actions. Blocking and unblocking the people they’re harassing is an easy way of controlling contact and avoiding repercussions or responses.
Ultimately, those three times where I was blocked didn’t affect me too much. They were a bit bemusing, sure, but, as I didn’t want these people to contact me anyway, being blocked didn’t make too much of a difference to my existence. The only slight concern I had was that I’d been blocked so that I couldn’t see any public messages they may have been sharing about me, but ultimately there wasn’t anything I could do so I quickly moved on. If I have been blocked by anyone else, I’m completely unaware so I’d question the purpose of it in the first place!
When to use a “soft block”
Something I love about Twitter is the ability to mute people. Muting is a function I’ve used a lot, mainly due to Twitter’s habit of constantly promoting specific accounts to you until you follow them. Most of these end up on my mute list so I don’t have to see them – it essentially encourages me to anti-follow! Among this diverse list are authors, mental health activists, an awful blogger who sent me some pretty nasty tweets and James Charles – I didn’t want to block any of these people, but muting them was the only way to stop seeing their content endlessly appear on my feed (thanks Twitter…). I’ve also muted people who are posting heaps of spoilers for TV shows I’m in the middle of, then unmute them at the end. Users won’t be aware that you’ve muted them and will still be able to see your Tweets as normal, so only use this function when you don’t want to see them,
My Instagram is currently private as I was trying to control who was following me without blocking too many people. What is useful about Instagram is the way you must approve messages from people you don’t follow, and that you can decline messages like this before opening them. I’ve declined many message requests I knew would be abusive, enabling me to go about my day not knowing what insults they were trying to hurl at me! It’s also possible to block people from seeing your story, or to remove them as a follower (which is most useful for if you have a private account they already follow).
It’s worth remembering that even when you block a user, if your account is public then they will be able to log out and see your content. Anyone I have blocked on Twitter can see what I’m writing on my public profile, but they’re limited when it comes to contacting me, unless they set up a new account. I think this puts them in a difficult position though, as it’s hard to convince yourself you’re in the right when you’re creating fake accounts to send negative messages!
Blocking users who are using the platform to be cruel or use information inappropriately is fair and valid, and there shouldn’t be any shame in doing so. That said, many people react poorly to being blocked and it can cause anger and upset that may make a situation much worse than it already is. For this reason, consider restricting access to your information by making your account private, or removing them as a friend or follower (though this can also cause upset). If the harassment is ongoing or you don’t need to have contact with this person in reality, go ahead and burn that bridge!
As a final point, I would caution against being the user who blocks others in order to send messages without getting a response, or to use your platform behind the other person’s back. You will not come across the hero, and the truth generally gets out in the end.