Life on the net can be hard. It’s human nature to want to be liked, and to feel bad when someone says something negative to you. And if it’s one thing we all know about the internet, it’s that at any moment, someone, somewhere, is saying something negative.
An easy solution would be to withdraw, to not participate at all. But the world is getting more digital, not less. Eventually we won’t have a choice: if we want any kind of social life, we’ll have to participate in the social web.
Another solution would be to develop a thicker skin. And while I’ve certainly done that over the years, I never want to become so callous that I just don’t care about anything. I want to be able to be myself in the world.
So the solution I’ve come to is this: I care a lot about a very small group of people. I maintain a hierarchy of who I need to be okay with. It starts with my wife Heather, my parents and my sister, and includes my clients and a very short list of friends. You know who’s not on that list? Anonymous internet commenters. For them and everyone else not on the list, I just try to remember a saying I heard once: “Your opinion of me is none of my business.”
If you’re reading this, chances are, you’re not on that list, and I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings. But the truth is, I’m probably not on your list, either. It’s okay if our hearts are not yet big enough to include everyone they deserve.
He manages it this way
If you use Twitter, you pay attention to your mentions – the tweets that include @yourusername – because that’s how you have conversations. And therein lies the problem, because anyone can tweet at you that way. Some of those people are batshit crazy like the Haight Street Guy, while others are just merely rude like the Conference Talker Guy.
The difference is, on Haight Street, you have to walk briskly away and hope you’re not followed. And at the conference, you have to de-escalate the conversation politely, in front of a crowd. But on Twitter, there is a magic button, and in one click, poof, the crazy is gone.
It’s a wonderful thing. A thing so lovely I often find myself wishing it existed in real life.So why is blocking such a taboo?
I think the Block function on sites like Twitter and Flickr is unfortunately named. There’s something about the word – Block! – that comes across as a personal insult. And that’s too bad, because it’s basically the only tool we have to effectively manage our social experience in those communities.
I propose that blocking people on sites like Twitter or Flickr should not be interpreted as an insult. I propose that it’s simply taking yourself out of someone else’s attention stream.
If I block you on Twitter, my tweets no longer show up in your timeline. If I block you on Flickr, my photos no longer show up on your contacts page. In these settings, this is the only way for me to remove myself from your attention.
I don’t know what Derek defines as his breaking point. Over the years I have left a couple of comments on both his and Heather’s Flickr and Twitter streams that have been sometimes ignored and sometimes replied to but I haven’t been blocked. I tend to do the same thing although I fall more on the ignore side of the things which doesn’t mean I don’t care but it often means I have nothing to say back. It’s how Twitter works. I hadn’t thought of it that much until someone that I know unknowingly posted something fairly offensive on my Twitter stream and I was going to reply when I realized that I didn’t care what this person thought of my views so I hit “block”. I used to do it quite a bit on my blog but a combination of blocking those that just want to argue and not posting very much eliminated the need.
I get a lot of criticism and feedback at work. I work with the hard to house and many have significant anger issues along with a variety of social disorders. When they don’t get their way, they generally comment on my weight, my intelligence, my faith, being bald, and being ugly. It happens day in and day out but at the end of the day I can go home and relax. To log in and get it day in and day out when all I want to do is a little reading and writing is absurd. By blocking you, I remove my offensive views from your attention and we are both happier. My piece of the internet is free from inane comments, your net is free of my views that bother you so much. There is such a thing as win/win and it’s found by clicking block.
Powazek talks of the need to stay reconciled with some people but I find that those people don’t take stupid potshots online. The other thing is that there is a difference between being close to someone and having to interact with them online. Facebook and myself don’t get along that well. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like people who choose to interact there, it just means that I choose not to interact with them there. Same with online. On Twitter I choose who I follow but I can also choose who I want to follow me and I am realizing more and more, I don’t want all people interacting with me there. I realize that some people that are normal in person are jerks online. If you don’t like it, I think I just said, I don’t really care.