Making Other Plans

I had really planned not to talk again anytime soon about blocking and my belief that quietly blocking people you don’t care to engage with is actually the best strategy for making and keeping a large circle of friends, acquaintances and professional contacts.   Two recent interactions made me revisit that plan.

I suppose that I have long known in theory that someone who gets unceremoniously blocked by someone they scarcely recall meeting,  let alone offending may be….let me use the word I really mean here…hurt by an action that the other party looked upon quite impersonally as a simple move to keep his streams clean.     I did write a blog post about the charity guy who was a Facebook friend and acquaintance who blocked me after I offered a bit of constructive criticism in a venue that seemed appropriate to me.    And what was really interesting to me was the comment that post brought from a woman I’ve come to like and respect,  and genuinely enjoy chatting with across a number of platforms….whom I had at one time blocked.    Honestly?   I don’t remember at all when or why I blocked her in the first place.   I don’t even particularly remember when or why I came to unblock her.    I only really know about the incident at all because she so graciously replied and pointed out that I myself have done what my post seemed to criticize another for doing.

The longer I blog and the more people I interact with and get to know the more convinced I am that my friend Holly is absolutely correct in her assertion that  ‘it’s all a matter of perspective‘.   I’ve blogged before about my strong desire not to talk about politics online these days.    I know that many of my online friends agree with much of what I think about politics and that many of my online friends disagree with much of what I think about politics.    I would so much prefer to chat with folks about writing,  about literature, about blogging,  about social networking,  about pie,  about zillions of other things.    I do not believe that I will ever get anyone to change their mind about divisive political topics that I have come to believe are not that important to me.    And I so cherish that many chats I constantly have with lots of different people who share perspectives I find genuinely interesting.

I have learned that I maybe need to be a little more cautious about just pressing the block button the moment someone says “a word out of line”.   Yet I remain fully convinced that not talking about politics and using the block functions on various sites to keep my streams clean of anything that feels toxic to me  is a real key to blogging/social networking success for me.   Gazes pointedly at my acquaintance Adam Justice.


36 comments on “Making Other Plans

  1. Yes Alan, it certainly is all a matter of perspective. Which is why I so enjoyed the long and interesting debate your post yesterday generated, and also why I do not feel in the least offended or hurt by the somewhat intolerant responses to my stirring of your pot. All wonderful stuff which makes life interesting – viewed from the right perspective.

    There are far more important things to worry about, like politics for example, but I respect your wishes and will not raise the subject here.

    A question though. When any level of government does or proposes do do, something with which one disagrees, something that erodes individual rights or restricts one’s freedom – like the SOPA bill – would you consider that a political issue? Or one worthy of debate in non-political blogs? Just asking.

    The real reason for commenting is to find out more about your views on “blocking” I know that unwanted tweets can be blocked on twitter by blocking a twitter handle. I regularly block the blatantly fictitious new followers and those with obvious porn type links.

    Do you include “unfriending” on Facebook, for example, as blocking?

    Our twitter streams or Facebook pages are I believe ours to manage, if you want to block me or any one else, that is entirely up to you. Just as if I want to block someone, that is my choice.

    • Peter, from my very first experiences online (in a Compu$erve forum circa 1991), I was imbued with the idea that every user has the right to control what appears on his screen and no user has the right to dictate or control the participation of another user. I don’t (in a public forum) have any right to tell you or anyone else what they should or shouldn’t post, while I have every right to decide for myself that I don’t wish to see what you or some other user posts. For me, personally, this is the philosophy from which I approach all questions about blocking.

      The fact is that since that long ago forum where I formulated my philosophy, our online lives have changed, in so many ways most of which we could not have even imagined back in those days where all navigation was done by typing a GO:COMMAND at the ! prompt. Until recently the main difference between Facebook and Twitter was that the former was a strictly reciprocal network (2 users could be connected ONLY if they accepted each other as friends) vs an openly asymmetrical network (it’s fine for 10 million people to follow @CharlieSheen even though he only follows 3 dozen). Now that Facebook has added the Subscribe option, allowing celebrities and wannabes to have lots of followers whom they don’t friend, and more significantly added the Un-Subscribe option on every friend menu– if someone annoys me on Facebook I almost never un-friend– I just unsubscribe to clear up my stream; so far no one has Ever noticed.

      As for yesterday’s chat, err thread, errr post….I believe that Grace and Mandy both went away feeling a bit like someone who has been flamed by a “dive bomber” (an old CompuServe phrase I can’t quite translate) and a bit annoyed that their eloquent rebuttals to what you wrote were not answered. Which is not in any way a request for you to go back and answer them. It seems to me that discussions like that have a life of their own. And I am coming to think that as a blogger it is good for me to encourage and facilitate discussions in the abstract and to try real hard not to get involved when folks become personally invested and take offense, except as and to the degree I may be able to provide some comfort.

      • Thanks Alan, I had forgotten that there was an unsubscribe function on Facebook.

        Quite funny to hear of what on-line chatting was like in 1991! I Had an IBM XT PC then and graduated to an AT at a huge cost, equivalent to $5000 in 1992, but did not connect to the internet except for a jury-rigged (and very expensive) cell phone connection for emails, until arriving in Canada in 2004.

        As for my not replying to the eloquent rebuttals, there were 3 reasons.

        1) I distinctly remember one and possibly both of the eloquent rebutters? ending with words to the effect that they did not see any point in continuing the debate.

        2) Not only do discussions have a life of their own, but also our own attachment to those discussions. I had already invested more time than I originally intended in commenting on blogs yesterday. As a self employed, working from home entrepreneur, my biggest problem is using time effectively.

        3) In many ways the “rebuttals” confirmed some of the concerns I expressed in my original comment and subsequent replies. Not much point in going over the same ground again.

  2. Your points are well taken as I understood them: blocking is a necessary part of managing a blog, but a blogger should be cautious about blocking so that honest interaction is possible. This seems like a reasonable policy : )

    • For me at any rate I definitely that blocking is a necessary part of managing any fairly complex social media engagement. But I really did just learn that sometimes other people really are hurt, so I need to be a lot more cautious about blocking and to look for less harsh ways of keeping content I don’t want to see out of my streams 🙂

      • Have to add another quick one Alan.

        Before blogs, social media and chat rooms, the most common media for the type of discussions you have so effectively facilitated with your blog, were the letters to the editor pages of newspapers or magazines.

        It was entirely at the editor’s discretion which letters were published and which rejected or blocked. I see a parallel with each of us having the final say over what we want to see in our blog comments or social media streams.

        If a letter writer was continually blocked or rejected, he or she either gave up or went off and found a letter page more in line with his or her views.

        I stand by my earlier comment, I certainly would not take it personally if you or any one else were to block me on any medium. I have only blocked people on twitter because I do not want to be associated with the image they project. I have many twitter followers with whom I disagree completely on many subjects, but I enjoy the spice their tweets add to my stream.

        But, if I do feel the need to block people for what ever reason, I will do so without losing any sleep over their possibly hurt feelings. Life is too short for that.

        Lastly with reference to your comment about “friends with whose positions I disagreed with…” I probably fall into that category. We venture into these discussions at our own risk, if we can’t take the heat, we should not stay in the kitchen. I have no problem at all with your neutral stance and compliment you on your admirable tolerance.

  3. I find it almost impossible to block anyone until they are really rude or hateful. I hover over the button and just can’t press it. On the other hand people I don’t really know don’t get to me all that much.

    Lots of people like to say they don’t care if they get blocked (some kind of on-line bravado), I’m not ashamed to say it would bother me. I never want to upset anyone, so if I do, I feel pretty bad.

    • Emma, I’m coming to realize it is a much more complex issue than I have long thought. I never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings and viewed it all in terms of cleaning up my streams. I’ve come to see there may be unavoidably an emotional component that must at least be considered in deciding to block someone.

  4. Thank you for this one. For over a decade I have moderated an open online community. One of my sayings is: We can’t be a tolerant community if we don’t leave some people around to tolerate. 😉

    That said, like you, I discourage certain topics because that is not the point or goal of that community. There are plenty of places to talk about anything and everything on the Web, my site isn’t right for all of them anymore than I’ll bring up infected anal sacs over at Huffington.

    The line between too much management and too little? A moving target. I try to remember that there is a difference between what annoys me and what is inappropriate for the community and attempt to stay focused on the later.

    • My spouse is a moderator on a specialized forum site (vBulletin based) andd I know second hand how much work and love for community that job takes, so please accept a pat on the back from me. I do think of my blog commentators as a sort of community. I really worry that a couple of my friends may be turned off and not wanting to comment here after a fairly heated discussion we had the other day. I was trying so hard to be even-handed and not let the friend whose positions I disagreed with feel unfairly attacked…I worry the friends I did agree with will feel unsupported and drift away. It really is a challenge, though one I would only do on my own site that I own and control. I would not be an admin on someone else’s site for all the money in the world 🙂

  5. I am very very cautious with the block button, and I absolutely refuse to talk politics. What I really despise is open hatred. I did unfriend someone once ( an acquaintance ) who made a truly horrid hateful ‘joke’ that made me understand I never wanted to associate with that person in any way. Other than hatefulness or meanness, I think differences of opinion are wonderful and enlightening 🙂

    • Anne, I definitely think I need to be more careful with the Block button going forward. I also think the Facebook’s unsubscribe function is a great compromise between blocking and being annoyed by someone.

  6. I block people when they bully me and I am also using it to block spam bots on twitter. I do however love to go back and forth with Politics because you just might get a different perspective into what you was thinking. I have had to do a couple of blocks due to the fact that the other person I was chatting with decided to turn into a bully.

  7. I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it and I totally get what you just said. Blocking, unfriending, unfollowing, all of that comes from perspective.

    That’s why my blog is 99% non-political/religious.

    Because, as a conservative Catholic, I’ve been torn apart, named called, blocked, unfriended and name called once someone finds out my value system, but neglects to get to know me.

    It’s hard to stay generic in today’s world, and even harder for the majority of us to keep our opinions to ourselves.


    I just blogged yesterday after I removed myself from several on-line communities. “Friends” can be vicious when you don’t agree with them, even when you still “like” them.

    • Sharon, it seems to me that I can either talk a lot about my political and religious views OR I can be friends with a broad range of people who have varying views. I don’t think doing both is possible. (Though if you or anyone else thinks it is, I’d love to hear more about it.)

  8. Dear Libdrone,

    Thank you so much for your article and for sharing! I remember having blocked a fellower once on twitter because he obviously didn’t comply to the netiquette and had insulting messages.

    It was the only time I blocked somebody.

    Have a great and prosperous time!



  9. Good subject on blocking. I believe in a world of different opinions, but, when it comes to hatred, etc I don’t tolerate such things. Therefore, I would block anyone who would offend my readers with their ignorant messages.

  10. This is a timely blog for me as I had someone block me just the other day. In a Facebook group devote to a small town in Jersey where I live for a few years as a child. This person asked the question “What do you think about Rush and his recent remarks. I made the commented that I view them the same way I do the piles of crap that the neighbor’s dog keeps leaving on my front lawn. I do not like it but I have come to realize that this is the sum total of the animals ability to contribute to society. I was quickly accuse of being a member of the “wacky left” and found myself blocked.
    Recalling this incident for you on your blog is the sum total amount of space that I will allow this person to occupy in my head.
    Oh and for the record I never knew there was a group called the “wacky left”, but is it is opposed to Rush sign me up!!!

    • It is odd I think how people go forth and assume that everyone they speak with is on their own wavelength. The Wacky Left…..weren’t they a musical group in the 70’s???

  11. I have blocked very few people so far in my online adventures. And the number one factor: hate speech. I can take insults of all sorts of striped and colors, and use of language of more colors that belong in a rainbow. But when someone calls someone with full intent of the word f****t and n*****r they go bye bye.

    • staring at your comment and trying in vain to figure out the insult that begins with an f and ends with a t (I grokked the second one). So you are saying that you are fine with respectful disagreement but draw a line at hateful name calling??

  12. Thanks for the thoughtful piece Alan. Blocking is certainly something that requires some thought. But ultimately if we don’t give people feedback when they are crossing our boundaries, how will they ever know where the boundaries are? Thanks for the well thought out take!

    • That’s a good point, Teresa. But why should it be my responsibility to provide boundary feedback to someone who just stopped by my blog to say something offensive?

  13. I believe people should speak with each other when there are perceived malfeasances – but most tend to “push buttons” (blocking, unfriending, etc.)

    • Saul, are you saying that blocking/unfriending etc. is a way of “pushing buttons”, eg–trying to get a rise out of others? I always looked upon it as simply a way of keeping my streams clean and was genuinely surprised when I realized I had hurt someone.

  14. Alan, I totally agree with your blog opinion about politics as these are often used to place the blog into their or a different camp. The same goes for religions. The were to many wars and fights started because of Religion so don’t burn your fingers on this too! Still you should always be very aware to stay as open as you can for replies, as long as you give your straight borders up front.

    • Jan, I am comfortable talking here with my friends about the idea of discussing religion or politics. If someone posted a message that was about a particular religious belief or political candidate or issue I would delete the message as soon as I saw it.

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