To Block or Not to Block

Social media, you guys. Sosh meeds as my close, personal friend favorite podcaster Phoebe Lynn Robinson calls it (though I’m not exactly sure how she spells it). There’s sooo much debate on whether or not it’s good for you or whether or not you should be using it or how it’s ruining our whole world or how it’s bringing us all together or how it’s ruining the need for high school reunions or whatever. I’m not here to engage in that conversation. I love social media. I love Facebook and I love Instagram and you can pry them from my cold, dead hands.

Yeah, though. Yeah. There are some parts that make it a little unbearable. Like that one older woman that used to babysit you when you were a kid and somehow and mysteriously manages to end every single comment thread she engages with (and she signs her name which is endearing). Or that one guy who calls you a “libtard” with such frequency that you are thinking about changing your name to it but you remember him as a fun guy from your youth, so you remain Facebook friends with him even though everything he posts and every comment he makes causes a visceral reaction in you. Or that person who you don’t really know that well but they’re a friend of a friend and you feel kind of obligated to keep that Facebook friendship even though sometimes you wake up in the morning and see that they’ve sent you a message overnight that reads, “uup?” And finally the very random men who pop up in DM’s with lyrical attempts to sweep me off my feet that read, “you gat a beautiful smile just like you.” Or, “look how awesome you are looking.” (Both very real messages that were sent to me in the past few weeks.) One of my most favorite joys in life is screenshotting these messages, sending them to my husband, laughing at them, and then smashing that block button so these guys can never talk to me again. They don’t care, they’re sending the same, misspelled messages to hundreds of women.

For some, the bad far outweighs the good and they just wash their hands of all of it. That’s great. I, personally, find a lot of joy in my social media–when I am in charge of how I use it and who I talk to. Everyone is different and everyone has something that works for them. For me, I have a technique that I’m excited to pass along to you. Are you ready for it?

Use that block button, baby. Smash that block button. Ruin that block button! Hit “block” often enough that support staff has to send you a message that says, “Are you sure you even want to be using this application?” And you’re like, “Um… well, actually now that you mention it.” But YES! You do want to keep using this application because the behavior of other people doesn’t determine whether or not you get to engage with the fun parts of your life. At least, that’s not the life I’m living.

I know, look, it seems harsh. It comes across like you’re punishing someone for bad behavior but I promise you that’s not what it is. You can’t control other people and I don’t want you to ever try. It’s futile and maddening. But if you are regularly encountering someone online who makes your cortisol levels rise and you never don’t have that feeling when you engage with them–using that block button is an exercise in self care. Do it. Feel that instant relief. It’s not a punishment for them. It has nothing to do with them at all, actually. This is all about you giving yourself permission to enjoy your internet. Yeah, you could just hide them from your feed. And you can try that out as a preliminary measure if you want. But if you’re anything like me, in dark times you’ll find yourself in a place where you know that going over to their page will get you all riled up. You’ll feel so alive! And you’ll fall down a spiral where you’re hate-reading everything they have to say. This is a specific and very real form of self-harm and you’re allowed to put the kibosh on it. Just use that block button.

The beauty of the block button is that no one has to know. No one has to know that you you used it. They don’t get a notification that you’ve blocked them. You never, ever see them on your social media and they’ll never ever see yours. For the most part, you won’t even know that the other person exists at all and both of you will be a little more relaxed (even if they’re not sure why). It’s good for me. It feels good–sometimes. Sometimes it feels good in the way that cleaning your room feels good, it’s not fun but you’re going to sleep so well tonight.

Now, look, there is a chance that one day far from now, they might be able to find out that you’ve blocked them. The only time they’ll know that someone has blocked them is if you’re both commenting on a thread and someone directly addresses you without tagging you in their comment (which is pretty rare amongst most FB savvy people). They’ll see that person’s comment and be like, “weird, I don’t see Libby commenting on this thread, I wonder why Marcia mentioned her…” And then they might be like, “that’s strange” and move along, or they’ll do a little bit of mental gymnastics to determine that you’ve blocked them. Either way, I hope they see that their internet life has been a little more peaceful without you in it and you’ll rest easy knowing that, at least on your end, that’s been true.

Now, I personally don’t believe in blocking people just because you have a difference of opinion. I think it’s important to have conversations and see the other side of the coin. I know, liberals allowing discourse? I can hardly believe it, myself. (I’ve had people leave comments on this very blog where they didn’t agree with what I’ve had to say and their comment will say something like, “You’ll probably block this from even appearing on your site…” Just know that I allow every single comment to appear on this site. That’s my policy. We never have to agree on everything–in fact I prefer that we don’t, that’s a very boring way to live. The only time I’ve ever denied a comment is when I can tell it was written by a spam bot. Don’t be a spam bot and I’ll let your comments through–I promise.) But I think respectful, honest conversations between people is a crucial part of being a whole person. But if you can’t have a respectful, honest conversation with a person (be it your fault or theirs), let it go. Block them. It’s okay. It’s good for everyone.

What do you think? What’s your unfriend/ block policy? Do you think mine is too harsh? Let me know!

Feature photo by Mikaela Shannon on Unsplash

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