A couple of years ago, when I took the extreme step of blocking an old friend on Facebook, I felt guilty for days.
Regardless of how obnoxious the person in question was, my act of blocking made me feel as if I had committed a crime.
Social media came into being with good intentions. It made it easier for friends and families to stay in touch. It worked wonders for long-distance relationships. Not just that—it reunited long-lost friends from schools and colleges. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for many.
But, just like many other technological evolutions, social media also came with its downside. OCD, depression, FOMO (fear of missing out), trolling, cyber-bullying, and social anxieties are some of the common problems occurring due to social media addiction. In fact, social media is now being accused of ruining relationships more than building them. And, as a solution, many of us have started resorting to unfriending, blocking, or unfollowing.
Unfriending is when we choose to remove a friend from our followers list and we cannot view each other’s posts and pictures. Unfollowing, on the other hand, is when we can still be friends with someone, except for receiving their posts on our feed. Blocking is rather more extreme; it’s when a person is completely blocked from viewing our profile.
These tools were introduced keeping in mind the misuse or the threat social media can pose to anyone’s life. Although many people think that taking such measures is immature.
But, you will be surprised to know that the social media coaches believe that it’s okay to block, unfriend, or shut down any account for pretty much any reason. More so when they have turned out to be abusive, toxic, or otherwise inappropriate. It is also fine to keep in touch personally while blocking them on a social media account. Therefore, it doesn’t really go against the “netiquettes.”
Let’s dive in a little deeper to understand the grounds on which unfriending, unfollowing, or blocking can be treated as justifiable.
1. Extreme Case Scenario
This simply means, if you encounter a bad person in real life, wouldn’t you avoid them? Same applies to social media. Extreme case scenario is when you feel threatened, like sexual harassment or by provocative comments. By all means, go ahead and block this person.
2. Cyber Bullying and Trolling
Wikipedia describes a troll as “a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses and normalizing tangential discussion, whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.” So here, too, you have all the rights to go ahead and block someone who falls under this category.
3. Racists or Fanatics
Doesn’t matter if this person is your old friend or a relative, go ahead and unfriend or block them. He or she doesn’t have any rights to bully you in public based upon his or her religious or political beliefs. They may turn a post into a battlefield and, suddenly, everyone’s attention is on them, and apparently the whole point of sharing your post is lost.
Unlike the explicit cases, implicit cases are hard to put under any category. These people are in a shade of grey. They are basically your frenemies or a toxic relative or an envious colleague—the list can be endless. These people are always ready to bring you down based upon your one mistake or a casual post. You will never be sure of their true intentions.
It’s probably not easy to identify such people, but there is one way: you may notice that each time they come in your contact, they cause ripples in your serene and joyful mental sanctum. They are most likely to leave a mean comment on your post or belittle you on the pretext of a joke, or they may criticize you often in the name of giving advice. It is advisable to take a break from these energy-suckers. So, have no guilt in hitting that block, unfriend, or unfollow button.
We live in the age of social media, and despite the fact that its addiction is costing us our mental peace, we do get hooked to it, consciously or subconsciously. Therefore, it is best to do a digital detoxification from time to time, or try to restrict the use of social media for not more than two hours a day.
However, if you still choose to use it, there is always a way out to maintain your mental well-being. Perhaps, somewhere in the middle of social media addiction, our mental well-being, and relationship complexities lie these tools for blocking, unfriending, or unfollowing, and that is the reason why they are now considered as the “new age” self-care tools.
Let’s build an online community of mutual support and appreciation.