In Defense of Blocking
I love blocking.
I love “Ignore,” “Mute,” “Turn off chat.” I adore “Unfollow,” “Unfriend,” “Leave Group.”
It’s amazing! The power to completely disregard unnecessary voices. This is an incredible power, one we don’t get the opportunity for often enough in life.
I do it with impunity, almost unthinkingly. Oh, that person wrote/said something annoying. BLOCK (with an insouciant shrug).
But what about giving the ‘other side’ a chance? some will ask. Aren’t you being awfully close-minded? To me, this mindset is endemic of an overly conciliatory attitude also expressed in the willingness of mainstream media to entertain the most absurd, ridiculous nonsense as though it shares equal weight with actual facts and things.
“Let us entertain the idea that Climate Change isn’t happening, because doing otherwise would be rude. It would eliminate the opportunity to change minds. Everyone deserves a say, even if he or she thinks Muslims should be banned from entering the country. Let that person express his opinion, even if his opinion is that environmental regulations hurt big business and should be stopped.”
Pfft. Excuse me for not giving an additional forum to dumb ideas. This garbage has plenty of opportunity for expression between a complacent media and the abysmal morass of misanthropic cesspools like reddit and [insert your local news site’s comments section here].
I prefer to stand with Bishop John Shelby Spong, who, in his “A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!” called so eloquently for the absolute disengagement from idiots who continue to rail against LGBT rights:
I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement.
With this in mind, let us keep the following principles in mind as we venture forth into the universe of online engagement:
1. There are such things as stupid questions. You don’t have to answer them.
Sure, if you’re in grade school, you should be encouraged to ask questions, even if you’re worried they might sound silly. But listen, once you’re past a certain age and have accumulated a little common sense, you should be able to figure out how to ask a relevant question. If you can’t figure out how to ask a relevant question, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t get a reply. This idea that “there are no such things as stupid questions” has no place outside of the paltry inanities of corporate training sessions– you don’t get to play that card past Grade 9. If somebody asks you a question and it’s no good, you have every right to ignore it.
There are also stupid answers. You don’t have to reply to them.
2. You don’t have to engage with people on factual stuff.
We’re so concerned about “finding a middle ground” and looking for “many shades of gray” that we lose sight of the fact that sometimes things are actually black and white. Spong again: “I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the “Flat Earth Society” either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection.”
Yep. As long as you’re honest with yourself, and you’re honest about the purview of the information you’re disseminating, there is no need to debate with people with whom you disagree.
3. You don’t have to reply immediately to anybody.
It’s okay– essential even– to take some time to craft a response if you find that mulling it over is a good idea. I’ve often gone days or weeks without replying to something, and am much happier with the quality of those responses than I would have been if I’d immediately fired off a reply. You have a mandate to represent yourself they way you prefer to be represented, so take the time to do it right.
4. You don’t have to reply at all.
Even if someone crafts a thoughtful, excellent response to something you’ve written, there is no law that requires you reply. Obviously, it’s polite to do so, but it’s always okay to say, “Great response, thanks for reading!” or, “Great questions, I’ll think about them!” You don’t owe anybody a reply.
5. Deleting nonsense comments, or blocking annoying people, is not “censorship.”
I’m all about the freedom of expression, but not every expression should be freed. Somebody comments on my work, and I’m not inclined to approve the comment, I’ll delete that sucker. Like I said, I always welcome comments and questions, but if somebody seems overly judgmental, wants to hijack my comment space or thread to spew their own agenda or declare their own enlightened state, somebody posts something silly or offensive in a thread on one of my sites, and it’s gone. I don’t have time for that kind of thing, and neither should you. Some jerkwads will claim that this amounts to “censorship,” or “creating an echo chamber,” or whatever. This isn’t “censorship,” it’s “my house, my rules.” I’m sure what you have to say is important, but if it isn’t reasonable, there is a whole internet you can take it to that doesn’t involve me and the good people who frequent my sites.
Once again, I don’t have time for nonsense, and it’s okay if you don’t, either. If somebody asks a nonsense question, or says something to you that you have no interest in replying to, then don’t. If somebody insults you on the internet (provided it does not fall into the realm of abuse), you are allowed to ignore it. Your time is valuable and limited, and I strongly encourage everyone not to waste it if you can avoid doing so. If somebody doesn’t reply to one of your questions, you don’t have to be offended. You can just go about your business.
So BLOCK, people, and BLOCK PEOPLE! Restore some sanity to your online existence! Banish the pointless to your naughty list and let them go. You’ll soon be glad you did.
“The present-day writer… has to bear in mind that the average reader, if he reads does so with the view not of learning something from the writer, but rather of pronouncing judgment on him.” — Ortega y Gassett