Cyber-Banishment

In life, what do you when you encounter an ass? (Or a bitch, if you prefer.) Someone who has nothing good to say to you, and half the time finds fault with whatever it is you are doing. Somebody that seems to enjoy the fact that they make you uncomfortable, and may even go out of their way to just piss you off. Or at least make no effort to hide their delight when they see you are pissed at something.

Do you follow them around? Do you write down all the bad things they say about you, and tape them up on your wall so people can read them? Do you blame yourself for not being together enough to avoid their actions, and try to find ways to re-invent who you are so that they don’t screw with you anymore?

Or do you take the sane, healthy approach, and just avoid them? If they enter the room, leave. If they call you, hang up. If they attend the same parties, hang out with other people. There just isn’t any benefit to exposing yourself, or other people to whatever their problem with you, or your work is.

And let’s face it, if the last nine encounters with someone have been insulting, hurtful, or any number of other unpleasant things, most of us are not going to stick around when they see the culprit approaching the tenth time, and wait for them to prove they are going to be an ass today. An ass is an ass is an ass.

So tell me then, dear readers, why does that very understandable, self-preserving behavior morph into “censorship”, “cowardice”, and “denial” when it is done online?

I have someone who follows me on Twitter, but never has a single constructive thing to say to me. Instead they belittle my every tweet. I block her. That’s what the button is there for. But I get accused of a lack of self-identity.

It’s even worse with a blog. I moderate the comments that appear here specifically to weed out such people. I don’t do it lightly, but after about the 15th bitchy comment, yeah I will refuse to post their comments anymore. And if I am really displeased, I will in fact go back over old posts and delete their previous comments. I’m avoiding the unpleasant. I’m refusing to engage someone who has proven time and again they add value to neither my blog nor my life. Yet I am accused of being “inauthentic” when I do so. (I won’t even dignify the borderline illiterate notion that this constitutes “censorship”.)

Isn’t the world filled with enough jerks? They are not going to go anywhere. Too often we have no choice but to deal with them. The online world is one of the few places we have at least some power to rid ourselves of such mischief. Why shouldn’t I embrace that chance by punching a few buttons and washing my hands of them? I want to provoke thought, and even discussion. But if people cannot discuss without being arrogant pains in my ass, you can be damned sure I am going to avoid them online as much as I would offline. You should too. Life is too short.

Do you consider it somehow “inauthentic” to block obnoxious people from your online platforms? Does it matter if others don’t seem as annoyed as you are, if you personally are put out by the behavior of someone else? Isn’t that what moderation of your online experience is all about?

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7 Comments

  1. I think you are completely justified in blocking these people. It's your blog, if some slob leaves a hateful comment, you're the one who will be remembered for it. Some people feel barbaric behavior is acceptable online, but in my opinion you are doing the right thing. Freedom of expression means a hateful person can start their own blog, it doesn't mean they can deface yours.

  2. Thanks. As you can see, the topic and the post itself are not very popular here, which I think may be an indicator of the position not being very popular. But I appreciate the support of the sentiment.

  3. I agree with everything in your post with the exception of one thing ( ; I have a question…but – to start off by giving you a 'props', I think its awesome that you can just block people. Not caring what others say and recognizing negativity in your life / proactively weeding it out sounds far more 'secure' and 'authentic' than most of what I would do! I wish I could check my ego at the door and NOT engage!

    Here is my only question – so…personally, I NOW block people sporatically. But it's not because of the smart reasons you listed about – it's truly only because if I don't block them, I'll start with them. Basically, I started blocking people as a form of “discipline”. So that said – there is a comment you wrote in the post that says something like, “you block them – you don't engage them….and sometimes you go back and delete their negative comments”. I think that's interesting. Do you think that's ANOTHER WAY (as opposed to 'starting with someone') to deal with the anger / feel better?

  4. Jamie, if “by starting” with people you mean a conflict or potential conflict, I endorse the choice to block them wholeheartedly.

    Some of the people I have blocked, (or whose comments I have deleted from my threads say over at Brazen) are people that may or may not on any given day have something good to say, but given their history to me have lost their chance to prove it. I see certain names on a thread, or here on the blog, and just reject the comment sight unseen. They should have thought about that before they acted like an ass previously. Now everything they say is tainted as far as I am concerned.

    I do think it is a fair and efficient way to head anger off at the pass so to speak. I am not saying I don't still get angry, or exchange a few things here and there with such people, but when I am done, I am done. My blog, my rules. I shouldn't have to feel screwed with, or even just mildly miffed when I sign into my own blog. I will only take that so far.

    Many have argued the entire point OF a blog, or indeed an online presence at all is to get as uncomfortable, pissed off, and challenged as possible. I don't see it in such black and white terms.

  5. I'll chime in with another angle. This year, I had almost 500 people participate in my Freelance Forecast survey of clients and freelancers. I spend my own money and time, and I distribute the results for free. I'm not trying to polish my “martyr badge,” just simply saying I do it because I want freelancers and clients to understand each other better.

    Over the three years, most people have nice things to say in the final comments, or offer a suggestion for a new question, but occasionally a person will complain about something in a way that's over the top — especially for something that's, um, FREE.

    So, this year, I had a guy who wrote a several sentence screed about how he'd wanted to answer one of the questions in a certain way, but it wasn't one of the options. He went on to complain that I was careless and unprofessional, and that he was surprised that I could even survive in this business. (I've been at it 12 years now…I guess I'm bamboozling a lot of people.)

    I wanted to let it go, but I couldn't help myself. I sent him a brief email along the lines of what I've said above, and offered to take him off the mailing list for the results since he was so profoundly unhappy. He responded back with a profuse apology, but my inclination is to delete his email from the contact list for future surveys.

  6. I have been struggling with this so much recently. Why do I continue to participate in a “social network” of 120+ “friends” when in real life I can't even get a ride to town. And why am I so hesitant to delete or block people that I literally despise? As I am trying to accomplish a more minimalist approach to my life & home, ridding my life of visual clutter, I am feeling the need to eliminate spiritual & mental clutter in the form of unreal friendships & Facebooking as well. Glad I found your blog.

  7. Jake, I think some people would complain if they had nothing to complain about. Another good group to banish.

    Tina, welcome to the blog. Hope you stop by more often.

    And I think a lot of it is inertia. Someone HAS BEEN on our online platform for so long, we feel that we are disrupting the established pattern to get rid of them. But as you say, is it worth it when that never translates to any kind of real life connection? Probably not.

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