Twitter Blocking and My Own Privilege

by Darius Kazemi on February 13, 2013

in Uncategorized

I was talking to Cameron Kunzelman today and he mentioned that he has a hard time blocking people on Twitter.

I used to have a hard time hitting the block button too. It seemed like I was being rude or maybe I was purposefully ignoring inconvenient opinions or something. Then I noticed that women, people of color, and LGBTQA folks that I know did not share my hesitation about blocking people. The reason for this is simple: they experience people on the internet being assholes to them way more frequently than I do as a white guy. How often do I deal with someone being a dick to me on Twitter? Maybe once a month. I can make bold statements about, say, the game industry, and nobody questions my authority to make the statement: they usually just argue the statement itself, which is how it should be! Meanwhile, it’s a frequent occurrence when my spouse tweets something and then someone descends on her to question the ethos of her argument, rather than the logos.

So when someone’s annoying the shit out of me on Twitter, I have the privilege of just ignoring it, and it eventually goes away, and then I’m fine for a month or so. Other people don’t have that privilege and so they’ve got to deploy the block button often. Otherwise Twitter becomes an untenable experience for them.

Once I realized that, something clicked and now whenever someone annoys me consistently on Twitter, I block the shit out of them. (The rule is, if you’re annoying me [edit: I mean by not engaging in good faith discussion], and I can remember another time you annoyed me, you’re blocked.)


Erlend Grefsrud February 13, 2013 at 11:02 am

It’s kind of a weird approach. I can understand blocking people who literally abuse you, who actively try to bully and hurt you. But blocking people you DISAGREE with? That sounds like a character flaw. I follow tons of people I actively dislike and whose opinions I often find reprehensible, intolerant or plain dumb PRECISELY SO THAT I HAVE TO SEE THOSE THOUGHTS EXPRESSED.

That way, I’m jolted out of my smug, happy little personal bubble universe and I realize that not only are there people out there who think, act, talk, feel and dream differently from me, I have to deal with my own fear and anger. I can’t do that by simply denying their existence — no, I need to learn how to deal with them in a somewhat tolerant (if not necessarily respectful) manner in order to develop as a person, in order to properly empathize and put myself in the place of others. To understand myself and others, I must have as rich a context as possible.

By blocking people you disagree with, you are closing yourself in, building yourself an echo-chamber, protecting yourself from an enemy you made yourself through your insecurities and your own intolerance. Every time you block someone because you don’t like the way they talk or think, you have isolated and effectively disempowered yourself.

You are now keeping useful information from yourself, you are avoiding challenging your own deeply held thoughts and beliefs, and you are doing it in a complete vacuum. No-one will ever know you blocked someone (unless you tell them, which you can’t, since you blocked them). The action has no significance and no value.

Darius Kazemi February 13, 2013 at 11:11 am

Right, I follow plenty of people who I mostly disagree with because I try to avoid the echo chamber. I also actively try to follow people on Twitter who are not like me.

The problem is when someone argues with me in way that actually annoys/bothers me. It’s not “oh this bothers me I’ll block them.” It’s “oh this bothers me, is it because the ideas make me uncomfortable, or is this person being a dick?” If it’s the latter, then I block them. And I think hard about the difference. This is why I specifically mention attacks on ethos rather than attacks on logos.

Hel February 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

I don’t think he’s saying he blocks ppl he disagrees with, he’s saying he blocks ppl who refuse to engage in good faith discussion, ppl who attack the individual rather than the idea. Framing it as “ppl who annoyed me” does make it somewhat unclear tho.

Darius Kazemi February 13, 2013 at 11:13 am

Good call, I’ve edited the article to be more clear!

Scott Jon Siegel March 7, 2013 at 1:50 am

This is pretty spot on.

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