People on the internet can be complete and utter assholes. You only need to read the comments on the Daily Mail website or search the #feminism hashtag on Twitter to see proof of that. Perhaps its the fact that sitting anonymously behind the comfort of their laptop screen gives the majority of people the same kind of delusional confidence that 7 gin and tonics, 2 shots of Sambuca and three pints of Guinness give me on a Friday evening. The only difference being that my stolen confidence results only in a very unlikely resemblance to Beyonce dancing.
I’ve come to realise since being a certified adult (certified means that I bought myself a vacuum cleaner and a set of saucepans) that you cannot fight stupid. You will never change the opinions of people who passionately disagree with you nor will they ever accept your viewpoint or even bother to listen. In life, that’s just called a matter of opinion, yet seemingly online disagreeing on a subject can equate to abuse and harassment which nobody needs to see clogging up their timeline or have their email account notify them at 4am in the morning about.
I’ve come to realise that the only way to deal with said assholes and the easiest way to avoid those 4am notifications is to make friends with your block button.
As people who are in charge of their online experience, the sites we log into, the people we choose to follow and the way that we choose to present ourselves online, we also have the right to ensure that our online experience is a positive and emotionally stabilising environment. In that respect, if people are making us feel uncomfortable or bringing negativity into what should be a safe haven, we should be free to rid ourselves of that negativity without fear of backlash of having to explain reasons.
That doesn’t just go for our online life. In our day to day lives, we wouldn’t allow us ourselves to be abused or subjected to negativity from a stranger and if we were put in that situation, I’d like to think that the majority of us would take the necessary steps to take ourselves out of that situation. Be it detaching ourselves from a toxic friendship, relationship, a work or social environment. It’s a natural instinct to protect ourselves.
Blocking someone for aggressive, harassing or negative behaviour towards you (or others) does not indicate weakness, nor does it take away another persons right to freedom of speech. It’s utilising a function that was put there to make your online life comfortable, no matter how very Britishly rude and uncouth you feel by doing so.
When someone harasses you or someone you care about, the natural instinct is to react and respond, mostly to no avail. Those people crave attention and response and by shutting them down takes away that weird bout of satisfaction they gain from that interaction. As much as you may want to respond, do not. Just hit the block button. By doing that you take away any kind of power they feel they hold over you, you can read your timeline without fear of seeing a triggering statement crop up in your mentions and you essentially cleans your online activity of their presence.
Which means more time for online shopping, sharing memes and keeping up with people who’s tweets you actually give a shit about.