Saturday, 16-Sep-17 11:52

Blocking people on the internets is always a bit of a controversial subject - don't do it, and get overrun by trolls. Do too much of it, and risk missing valuable opinions and facts. The words people use to describe this are "bubble" and "echo chamber", where only "valid" opinions get thrown around, and any criticism is squashed. I'll again refer to Clay Shirky's A group is its own worst enemy for a thorough discussion on this.

Especially on Facebook, where pretty much everybody is, it's difficult to go by without blocking anyone ever. Facebook combines public and private in ways that is sometimes very inconvenient: It may be someone that used to be your best friend in high school, but has recently turned all nazi, and while you value what you used to have, it's kind of awkward to see swastikas in the middle of birthday celebrations and cat pictures. On Twitter this is less of a problem, because it's more of a public forum where people don't share their life - at least to me Twitter is more of a news service, where awkward texts and images are sometimes expected. But Facebook... If my blog is my living room, and Twitter is the public square, Facebook is like a communal space or a bar: people hang out there because they like it, and assholes make everyone feel bad, but you can't exactly throw them out. So you mute or block them.

For me, I don't block people because they have different opinions. I block them when they can't behave. So you could say that I live in a bubble of well-behaved people, which I suppose isn't such a bad place to be. I've been using this blocking criteria quite successfully for the past 20 or so years on the Internet:

  • Repetitive argumentation. This is basically when you keep saying the same thing over and over, regardless of what other people say. It's not constructive and it frustrates everyone. In FInnish we call this "jankkaus".
  • Continously moving goalposts. Switching the topic is fine, but those people who just argue for the argument's sake are just tiring.
  • Deconstructive argumentation. Texts aren't mathematical theorems - they don't unravel if you find even the slightest mistake. For some people, pointing out any mistakes in the text invalidates the point of the text, and so they will gleefully keep deconstructing even the smallest nuances until nobody really cares. Don't be that person, know when to call the argument.
  • Personal attacks on other people. You keep calling people names, you go onto the blocklist.
  • Science denial. If you have the scientific background, I'll appreciate your opinion. If you keep arguing that science must be wrong because you feel like it, well, I've had it with you.
  • Shameless promotion. Yeah, I get it, you really like that Breatharian diet, but I already checked it out two months and 50 similar posts ago. If I wanted to hear more from it, I'd like your page.

And I mean, this isn't like an exhaustive and a trigger-list, it's more of a "I find these behaviours really impolite and you may end up on my blocklist if you keep going" -list. The interesting thing is that many of these behaviours seem to usually manifest at the same time in the same people - like getting all argumentative over a trivial detail that escalates into name-calling. Or trolling comments on a scientific article.

Still, over the years I've had to block maybe 30 or so people, so my corners of the internet aren't really that bad. Then again, I don't participate in controversial Twitter discussions and fight Russian trollfactory bots all day long...

Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.

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"Main" last changed on 10-Aug-2015 21:44:03 EEST by JanneJalkanen.

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