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I might block you (but not permanently)
You’re probably seeing this link on Twitter because you have engaged me in a way that does not seem appropriate for healthy human relationships.
You’re probably seeing this link on Twitter because you have engaged me in a way that (in my personal subjective fallible opinion) does not seem appropriate for healthy human relationships, and I’d like to offer you an automated message. Maybe you’re a troll. Maybe you’re not. But in an effort to promote more humane interactions on Twitter, I’d like to direct you to some key principles I’m trying to uphold:
1. I do not respond to litmus tests.
If you ask me a question for the purpose of determining whether I am generally good or bad, right or wrong, then I won’t engage. I’m more interested in thoughtful, nuanced conversation where I’m not forced into boxes. At this time, I am also not excepting inquiries from the orthodoxy police.
2. No one is entitled to an argument.
If I see a stranger on the street, and they try to strike up an argument when I don’t want to have one, I walk away. I’d like to do the same on social media.
3. I’m not interested in name-calling.
If you engage in name-calling, I won’t engage. Likewise, if you say things like, “You have no integrity,” I won’t engage. If you don’t think I have integrity, why are you even trying to talk to me?
4. I generally avoid arguments with people with fake profile pictures, or who don’t use their real names.
Anonymity hinders civility. Those people don’t have to take personal responsibility for the things they say. So I don’t engage. Which keeps me calmer and more civil. At the same time, I recognize many people have good reasons for anonymity, and I try to keep this in mind. But when it comes to Twitter arguments, if your name isn’t important enough to put your name behind, then it’s not important enough to get me worked up.
5. I try to report tweets and block profiles that engage in a way that is abusive, racist, violent, etc.
For me, the line usually comes when people start using profanity, suggest that physical harm should come to another person, or mass-tag profiles known for attacking others. Twitter will review reports and evaluate based on their rules. Not everything I have reported has been found in violation, so I be sure to block in addition to reporting. As I said earlier, no one is entitled to an argument from or engagement with me on Twitter. I also consider reporting and blocking part of my civic duty. Healthy public discourse will always involve some level of moderation. Certainly we can argue about the sort of moderation, but I consider the above to be a fair floor for encouraging productive dialogue.
6. I try to avoid sarcasm and irony. And I often don’t feel the need to respond to sarcasm.
I’m bad at this sometimes. But irony and satire can be quite toxic. For more on how these are opposed to charity and gratitude, I highly recommend this lecture by David O’Connor.
7. I avoid taking too seriously people who only engage as critics.
As Brenda Ueland writes:
“Critics are second-eaters lacking the courage or the love to make anything themselves. They're big game hunters, killing from a safe distance, with great ego-satisfaction. But they are entirely safe themselves & the shooting requires no muscular effort or skill.”
8. If you think I’m so bad, you should probably just block me.
Some of you think I’m a terrible person, a heretic, etc. So why amplify my posts by engaging with me? If it doesn’t seem that my writings or posts are offering you anything good, it may be best to just unfollow or block me and move on.
9. The “exorcist rule.”
I've had friends who have worked the diocesan exorcist hotline (it's a real thing). When someone calls for an exorcist, they take their time in responding. It's intentional. They say that one thing satan wants is panic. So they stay calm and slow things down.
I try to do that on social media at times, resisting immediate quick responses and instead letting things sit before responding. Sometimes I then forget to respond, which means maybe responding wasn't so important. (I should probably do this more.)
10. I love interesting disagreements.
I can’t remember the last time I was in a room of people who just agreed with me. I love interesting and thoughtful debates. If you’re getting this message, it’s not just because I disagree with you. It’s because of the mode of your engagement. I’m thoroughly uninterested in comments like, “That argument is horribly wrong and full of falsehoods.” If you’re interested in a better way to engage, one format I would suggest is:
“I disagree with [specific claim] because [specific consideration].”
(The more specific, the better.)
11. Once a troll, not always a troll.
Just because you’ve received this message does not mean you always will. Ultimately, what I want are thoughtful, helpful, and interesting interactions on social media. If you’ve gotten this, it’s just because I don’t think that the dynamic we are having is healthy or helpful. But I would love for things to change in the future. Hopefully we can have better interactions at some point. Just because they are not happening now, doesn’t mean they won’t happen in the future. I wish you well.
If you’ve gotten this message, there’s a possibility that I will block you if the activity which led to it continues. Know that this doesn’t mean you’ll be blocked forever. I will unblock all of my block list every once in a while. No one should be “canceled.” But also, no one is entitled to an argument with me.