Over at the fantastic Awl* is a great, ecstatic post on the joys of blocking people on the Internet.
I'm not a habitual "blocker," but I do appreciate the option as a neat little function of social media. A couple of comedians I follow on Twitter make a hilarious meta-sport of it (see: my spirit guide Lizz Winstead), and many of us well know the rush of sending a high-school nemesis on Facebook caroming into the Phantom Zone.
All of China has apparently blocked Russell Crowe, which I assume coincided with the regional DVD release of a "A Good Year." The point is, a billion million Chinese exercising their free will can't be wrong: the power to virtually banish can be heady and even therapeutic.
For a long time, it was my personal policy to simply, passively ignore. I thought that waging a campaign of quiet indifference was just the more enlightened thing to do. Mostly because I am an asshole, and also because I am mega cool and have a recurring nightmare in which I give the appearance of caring about something.
But eventually, some part of me snapped -- some deep, internal Slim Jim of Tolerance torn asunder by the capricious incisors of an insatiable Internet.
Here's the gist: There is a lot of humanity out there, and some of it sucks.
I love social media, web sites, music, nurses, lip balm, shiny pie plates hung from trees, and people in general. I am, sometimes, just a huge naif who is just psyched to be here and new, super-best-friends with Chan Marshall. I'm by no means a technological alarmist. But if you let it, technology can give the Suck Section of Humanity as much access to you as a listed telephone number or a curtainless, shower-adjacent window. It is up to you to tend goal.
Privacy controls are key. For all of my vanloads of Internet acquaintances and our various levels of intimacy, I've hardly ever been compelled to "block"-block anybody. I'm not taking spam into consideration here, because until we fully accept them in our society as gigolo lovers and humanoid children, robots don't count as people.
Nor am I addressing actual, threatening stalking. That is a different and scarier animal, and one that requires more serious measures. (Something more policey and tasery.)
So today, I went through and parsed my social media block lists for you. Turns out? It's actually a fairly anodyne roster that could potentially be titled, "Gross Men Who Have Weirded Me Out or Wronged Me Slightly." But if you care to, please enjoy it as though it were the inverse of one of those fond, lyrical sex diaries written by slutty old French women.
"Mentors" and Other LinkedIn Types
Sometimes I accept friend requests from strangers on Facebook, particularly if we have mutual friends or they work someplace cool like the Spike Network or the corporate offices of Cold Stone Creamery. Sometimes those people are fun and harmless, and end up being friends or valuable networking contacts. Sometimes, they don't.
They cannot give you free ice cream, and only write you dully sickening messages about "getting lunch" to discuss your writing career from deep within their rum-splashed Fair Isle sweaters. It's usually enough to ignore this particular brand of generosity until they inevitably, unthinkingly post Instagrams of their toddler twins playing in the snow.
That Guy Who Was Maybe in Some Kind of Dutch-Moroccan Islamist Sect?
He had a crazy uniform and a flag and wanted my address. No idea why. Thanks for nothing, Google Translate.
Kooky Antisemitic Guy
About once every two days, I am followed anew by this one, same guy whose avatar is either a picture of Bill Maher or a GIF of a huge, squirting erection (I know, I know). Every time Twitter bans his account, he just makes a new one solely for the purpose of tweeting at Roseanne and a bunch of female comedians about how we "liberal Jewesses" just want to suck hot socialist seed from huge black cocks all the livelong day.
I've been tempted to be like, I'm not Jewish, but I am super flattered! Thank you for the penis photographs. PS -- glad we agree re: black cock! So awesome, right? But I get the feeling he might be kind of unhinged.
Two of My Best Friends' Exes
I've only blocked my friends' exes when it's been asked of me. Usually, I'll just de-friend them quietly at four AM, like a thief in the night. This way, it's a few days before they realize in horror that there will be no more exciting status updates about my love affair with shorts. But, yeah, duh: I will straight-up block your exes if you ask. I know what friends do, guys. I've seen "Boys on the Side."
Creepy Hat Guy
Oh, boy. There was this (for lack of a better word) "Twitter person" who I ended up meeting a few times at Internet events. We'd hung out precisely once when he started sending me text messages asking me to be his girlfriend. I stayed Internet friends with him for a little while. Mostly because I'd thought to myself, Listen, just because a guy wants to date me doesn't automatically mean he's a crazy person in a "band" who lives at home and refuses to remove his hat, who fakes medical emergencies for sympathy and will ultimately call me constantly to accuse me of having secret sexual relationships with "rival musicians." Whoops. I forgot. That is exactly what that automatically means.
What's the term for one of your parent's cousins? I'm never sure whether it's "second cousin," "first cousin once removed," or "weird man who talks about his fruit-shaped neck cysts and posts pictures of his golden labrador sprawled in sexy poses on the hood of his car." I don't know, I'm not a genealogist.
Sorry, teens. A lot of you love friending strangers and I'm flattered, but I'm going to tell you what Wayne and Garth told their lawyer: I'm not going to jail for you, or anybody.
People Who Write Me Pervy Things Without Invitation to Do So
For a short, horrible time, I didn't realize that the default status setting meant that people who are only tangentially connected to you can comment on your Facebook updates. I'm friends with this one dude who has like 17 million friends, and while he is very nice, his fans are all a bunch of loping troglodyte monsters who should be sterilized, dipped in wifi resistant jelly, and shot deep into space or the ocean.
All in all, I try to only block lunatics or potential members of splinter cells (which pretty much also covers certain family members and people who are willing to date my friends).
I know first-hand that being "blocked" can cut pretty deep: I recently tried to follow a comedian on Twitter and found out that he had mysteriously already blocked me. I am really nice and only use Twitter for silly, sophomoric jokes about pretzels. I also don't generally tweet at people, least of all strangers, so I have no idea why anbody would block me. Maybe it's because I have a sultry picture and a sexy handle and he thinks I am a porno spam robot.
Which, OK, fair enough. But if for some reason he ever reads this: Doug Benson, I am NOT, repeat, NOT a sexy porno robot or a crazy person who wants to send you pictures of people ejaculating. I really like your podcast. Please unblock me.
*Was I correct to just call it "Awl" there? Do I have to "The Awl" it when I've already used a definite article?
**Please don't block me, Choire.
***The screenshot at the top makes it look like I am blocking Dave Hill. I'm not! Dave is so great! He just happens to be the unfortunate soul I have last replied to. Buy his book!