Friend Cautiously

My friends over in the Inspirational niche are fond of saying “Life Is What You Make It”,  but this is especially true of one’s online experience.    Since the long ago bad old days of Compu$erve   (and Holly can correct me if I’m wrong I suspect also GEnie) every user has the right to control what is on their screen.   And no user has the right to dictate another’s participation.   If you do not want to see my avatar and hear my point of view,  you have every right to block me,  so that nothing I say appears in your stream  (and I must say that Facebook has come a long way on this– in the Compu$erve days you could still see where some one had posted in a thread,  although their actual message was  not visible you could still their user ID and the message header– on Facebook it really is like you sat shiva for the person you blocked and they are dead to you and simply do not appear on your screen.   You get an error page if you try to click on their content and you really,  really need never know that the person you have blocked continues to live right there in your same online neighborhood.

I’ve met a great many people who publicly state that they have never blocked anyone.   I’m never entirely sure if this is simple boasting,  by people who have actually used a block button in their time,  whether some folks have a moral hangup that it is not okay to block people or if perhaps some of my friends really are so saintly that they get along with absolutely everyone.  (I am not denying nor discounting this last as a possibility,  though I can’t honestly say I’m betting on it either.)   In my considered opinion,  simply blocking a user whose input you do not value and whom you do not feel you can have a pleasant and productive interchange with is the most polite course of action possible when you run into someone who  “rubs you the wrong way”  or whose attitudes and opinions you find particularly distasteful.    Note that I am not in any way whatsoever suggesting that you block all people who disagree with you.

I have been making and keeping friends online for more than twenty years now.    It was many, many years ago (on a trip to Washington, DC for the March On Washington for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in 1993 I think) that I first met face to face a large number of people I had chatted with online for a long time.     While I fully understand the phenomenon of new users thinking of the people they chat with on their computer screen are somehow different than or even odder somehow less human than the people they live with,  the people they work with or the people they ride the bus with or go to the movies with. I absolutely positively don’t have separate categories   “online friends”  and  “real friends”.     For me they are all just friends.    I absolutely urge you to block  (or just unsubscribe) anyone who becomes a real negative to your online experience.     And if you find that someone has blocked you,  try to remember that blocking was in fact a great deal more polite than telling you to your face precisely why they do not want you in their life.

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8 comments on “Friend Cautiously

  1. I absolutely have blocked people on Facebook — not randomly or often, but when I truly found their opinions hateful or disgusting. I wouldn’t keep these people in my offline life, so why would I keep them around to whisper in my ear online?

    Not only that, but I have reported a few, too. One spoke of killing a person of another ethnicity. The other shared his view that women in short skirts were “raping him” by causing him to have an erection, and therefore deserved treatment in kind. People like that need to be shunned, in my opinion.

  2. I’ve blocked a few. But I generally don’t block people because we disagree, or even because they annoy me (that was never a SysOp’s privilege on GEnie, Alan – there’s a difference – if we blocked you, it meant YOU wouldn’t see the NETWORK again).

    Anyway, I agree with you – and the funny thing is, I probably wouldn’t notice if someone blocked me, but if I did, I’d assume they had their reasons. Unless we were very close friends, and I felt truly hurt and confused, I doubt I’d even ask. I take that back – I’d ask if I thought it was an accident. If after searching my soul for ANY reason they might have blocked me, I come up empty, I’d ask – ONCE. (It’s happened, and yes, it WAS an accident – the person unblocked me immediately and thanked me for telling them what had happened.)

    I also agree with Susan – I generally don’t block anyone, even now, unless they strike me as DANGEROUSLY creepy. I’ll block collectors of female profile pics as “friends,” and I’ll block and report the sorts Susan mentions, although that doesn’t do much good, really. That’s the beauty of freedom of speech. People can talk about the ugliness in their heads all day long, but until they act on it, there’s nothing law enforcement or Facebook can or will do – rightfully so, I think. I almost hesitate to block some of those – it’s like watching a snake. Do you close your eyes, not knowing where he’ll be next, or do you watch him as he coils to strike? Whatever you do, don’t run… just stand there and calculate whether you can reach the BIG shovel…

    • Holly, I wasn’t talking about sysops blocking users from the network for violating the TOS (or whatever it was called then) but the fact that from the beginning one of the fundamental tenants of online discussion was that you control what you see but you can’t dictate anyone else’s participation. Boy we’ve come a long way. Sometimes it seems to me that my main big ‘job’ these days is to keep my cool and not get upset, anxious or angry. I grasp the amusement value you refer to, but frankly haven’t the patience for it most of the time.

  3. I normally don’t “block” people, I will usually just hide their content from my timeline. If it came down to a person harassing me, then I can understand why some might, I usually find ignoring people like this the best option.

    • Sharon,

      The way I see it I have a kind of deal with my readers here. I try to be honest and try to say things that are worth reading. But. I also try very hard to keep things fairly General Audience and at most never more than shades of pg-13. I mostly don’t talk much at all about my religious beliefs, my political views or my sex life. And generally, under this account and all of my associated networks I don’t follow anyone who talks Much about any of those three areas. With those three big areas carved out, I find I can mostly chat with and get along with anyone. I REALLY don’t want to spend a lot of my time online talking about those three things which I don’t believe are ever going to bring about the kinds of fun and friendly discussion about real stuff that I am trying to create here. And because I am trying so hard NOT to engage anyone on hot button issues…sometimes I worry I end up being a bit too bland 🙂

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