To block or not to block is the question – my article in the Times of India Reader’s Blog

Millions of activists from all over the world make social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter their second home, if not the first. They cover every aspect of human life on earth, be it professional, social, cultural, economic or political.

These activists usually position themselves as ‘thought leaders’ for their ideology, cause or political party and often post highly irrational, inflammable and vicious content online. I don’t know any of them even remotely, but their venom is so pervasive and consuming that it becomes all too personal to me, as if I am in the presence of some great evil demon.

Most of the time I feel I should hit the ‘Block’ button right away, but hold back at the last instant. Of course, they don’t know that I exist on this planet, so my blocking or following them will make no difference to them whatsoever. And really, what would be the point of a non-entity like me blocking them? They would notice it less than they would notice a mosquito buzzing outside their window net.

I often wonder what makes a celebrity notice the post or tweet of a non-celebrity like me, for instance. Like most people, I think my online social media posts are very sensible, balanced and intelligent. But I have been singularly unsuccessful at impressing the ‘blue tick’ celebrities on Twitter. I have rarely received a Like and proper responses are rarer still.

The trick, I think, is to respond within a few seconds of their posting or tweeting something. Their attention span seems to be even less than a school kid’s. If you manage to get in your response within those crucial moments, then you may get a response back, or at least a Like. But that means you have to lie in wait, like a tiger in tall grass and pounce when that moment arrives. Unfortunately, most of us who are not part of any ‘IT Cell’ or ‘bot’ or whatever they call them these days, don’t have that kind of time or patience.

All that aside, I am always in two minds when blocking these well-known personalities and activists.

On the one hand, I hate the false information and malice that they spread and provoke so blatantly, and I want to block them simply because that would shut out their negativity from my life. It just makes social media seem so much cleaner and bearable when I do that. Facebook is the worst. Twitter at least has a limitation of sorts in terms of characters allowed per Tweet but on Facebook, people are allowed to simply write up a storm.

When Trump was banned from Twitter, thousands of his supporters quit Twitter. For some time, it seemed as if a whirlwind of clean, fresh air had gushed through Twitter and cleansed it, whisking away the pollutants and the toxins. But then, Trump is just one of them and millions of others rushed in to take up the space. In a few days, Twitter was back to being what it is.

Fortunately, Twitter and Facebook are not microcosms of what our world is, or at least I am not cynical enough to think so – not yet anyway. But still, they are probably good indicators of where and what certain elements of our society would like us to be, which is a good Segway to the other side of this argument.

On the flip side, I feel that these people are really thought influencers with large followings and their views are absorbed, regurgitated and often acted upon by a vast portion of the populace. Blocking them makes me feel that I am just being an ostrich burying my head in the sand, covering my ears, unwilling to recognize the power of their malice to change the same planet that I too inhabit. In a way, I am insecure about what they will do to the world while I close my eyes to their evil, and more importantly, turn a blind eye to their ability to influence and empower their supporters. I know that their tentacles have already reached people who are near and dear to me, and I feel therefore, that I will be in some way turning my back on my own people if I were to just ban the social media influencers from my timeline.

It would make me feel as if I am rushing into my own house and slamming the door shut when I know that the house down my road is about to be set on or worse, is already on fire. I would rather that I stay online, keep a watchful eye on these guys and occasionally, in my own small way, offer a fight, or at least a different point of view that at least a few intelligent minds would read.

I think the basic question is the age-old dilemma of whether you can change something by quitting it or change it from within. In today’s world of social media, that million-dollar question needs to be rephrased as “Should I block or not block?”. It’s not a very easy question to answer.

People will believe what they want to believe, especially when it comes to ideology, politics and party. You can hit them on the head with the fattest fact book you can find, you can slap them with it, you can bump and bounce it like a rubber ball off their foreheads, you can make them read every word of the book with a magnifying glass, you can boil it and make them drink it like a medical potion, or you can crumple every page and shove each down their throat, but …….. you won’t be able to shake them off their irrational belief. They live, voluntarily blindfolded, gagged and tied up in an echo chamber of their own world and I know that the quickest way to send a relationship south is to disagree with their ideology or belief.

It would be nice if I became popular and famous enough to have a few thousand followers one fine day, if only to make my blocking noticeable, if not entirely consequential. I do that now sometimes with the small fry, informing them that they are blocked a split second before I hit the ‘Block’ button. Then I lean back in my chair and savor the moment.

It is immensely satisfying to imagine some obnoxious celebrity staring at my ‘Blocked!’ message on their screen and get frustrated because they have no way to get back at me. It will be like showing them the finger while not being able to see theirs.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/mynuscript/to-block-or-not-block-is-the-question-34206/

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