For the longest time I’ve always treated Social Media like it’s some kind of civilized debate. Like, it’s okay that I sit down and offer my opinions, but, when somebody comes along and disagrees with them, and wants to call out how wrong I am, I’m supposed to debate them and win them over to my side.
I’m supposed to resist being inside of an echo chamber, I know. I’ve got to acknowledge and respect the opinions of everybody, not just the people I like and the people whose ideas I like.
It’s part of the collegiate aspect of being an intellectual, well-informed, human being. We’ve got to sit down, genuflect on everybody’s opinions, and modify our own opinions accordingly.
It’s part of the obligation of any moderately curious person who wants to change the world. Or is it?
I’m not saying that any of that is bad or wrong, because it isn’t. On one hand, it’s absolutely critical to informing your opinions and growing as a human being?
What I’m advocating is something more akin to . . . putting a low-level filter on the pool of ideas and filtering out the most toxic shit. There are some opinions that you don’t need to hear, some people that you don’t need to engage with, and, instead of letting their words loom over you (or sit heavy in your mentions), it’s so much easier and much more freeing to block them.
There’s a time, a place, and a venue for engaging with differing ideals, and Social Media becomes so much less stressful when you decide that stage for yourself, when you set your own terms.
And the concern-trolls who want to offer you weight-loss advice? Block them. The wealthy people who respond to your description of poverty with maybe you should work harder? Block them. And so on.
You don’t have to see them. You don’t have to talk with them. You don’t have to engage with them. You don’t have to give them bandwidth in your brain. You can — and you should! — be selective with the voices you want to listen to. You’re not obligated to act in good faith with every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Vladimir-bot that shows up in your mentions.
I know that the option to ignore and to mute people has always been there, and I’ve always used it for the worst of the worst, but it’s so freeing to realize that it’s not reserved just for harassers and Nazis.
The block button isn’t only a tool to punish people. It can be used as a proactive tool. It can be used as liberally as you like. And you don’t have to justify your using it to anyone. You don’t have to articulate a well-thought out reason for blocking a certain person or groups of people.
I know this sounds really basic — and silly even, but this realization was a total light-bulb moment for me.
It’s okay to do this. It’s okay for me to dictate my own terms for using social media. This is my timeline.
I don’t have to sit in this two day-old conversation where any attempt at civilized discourse has devolved to media talking points. I don’t have to stake my interest in trying to promote an agenda or trying to convince someone else, or trying to defend my beliefs.
I can cash out my cards. I can turn it off. I can walk away, into a different topic or conversation, without being obliged to check back in. I don’t owe anybody my bandwidth. Nobody has the right to make me listen to them.
It sounds like a stupid thing. A petulant thing, even. But accepting this and putting it into practice is freeing — beyond belief.