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Online Social Etiquette: When To Block Someone On Twitter

By November 5, 2012November 5th, 2014Social Marketing
Online Social Etiquette: When To Block Someone On Twitter

When someone first asked me about blocking people on Twitter, my first thought was, “Sure, go ahead. Whatever grows your corn!”

“But how do you feel about it?” he insisted. And I realized that I didn’t feel a darn thing, because I had never given any thought to the topic. On further research, it turns out nobody else thinks about it much, either. Beyond the helpful “How To” guide, there isn’t a lot of guidance in this area.

When Is It Appropriate To Block Someone On Twitter?

The immediate, logical answer to the question of blocking people on Twitter is this: Do it whenever you feel like it. After all, it’s your account, and it’s not like the Twitter Police are going to come after you. Not yet, anyway.

If you’re looking for particular examples, there are some obvious ones of which we are all aware — any blatant sex adverts, porn pros, or otherwise “icky” handles are a-okay to block with zero guilt, most would agree. The community-spirited thing to do would be to go the extra mile and report these types of accounts as spam, which in turn automatically blocks them. I have no problem tattling for the sake of the community, but not everyone wants to be a nark. Again, whatever grows your corn.

Another instance where blocking someone on Twitter is appropriate is in situations ripe with personal drama. Exes should definitely not be stalking each other, unless, of course, they split on friendly terms, but this would be a case more of talking than stalking. We should all be so lucky! But alas, many of us aren’t. Block away!

Should I Block Someone Harassing Me?

Someone crawling in your personal space, being intentionally hurtful, or otherwise making you feel uncomfortable? Definitely block. And do yourself a favor, along with your fellow Tweeters: Report the culprit so no one else finds themselves in this sticky situation.

The best advice I uncovered on this topic comes from Bill Ferriter (@plugusin). On his website The Tempered Radical he offers three highly intellectual criteria for consideration in Twitter-blocking:

  1. Has the person taken the time to get to know who I am before throwing digital punches?
  2. Does the person have a blog — or other online space — where they’ve carefully articulated their thinking BEYOND 140-characters?
  3. Is there any evidence that this person sees the collaborative potential in conversations?

What About Tweeters Who Are Controversial By Nature?

Good point. I would have a more difficult time convincing anyone of my altruistic reasons for blocking someone, since my blog and tweets might be considered offensive to souls more genteel than mine. Truthfully, I’d expect someone to block me more likely than the opposite way around. To my knowledge, I haven’t been blocked by anyone yet, but I don’t think I could muster up any outrage were this ever to occur.

*GASP* What If I’ve Been Twitter-Blocked?

While Shama Hyder Kabani (@Shama), renowned social media guru, doesn’t specifically cover the phenomenon of Twitter-blocking in her excellent guide, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, I think her advice with regard to un-following works well here:

“Don’t ask someone why they un-followed [or blocked] you. Respect their decision.”

Depending on your style, being Twitter-blocked might come with the territory, and getting mad about it wouldn’t serve you well. If you find yourself blocked, realize your material isn’t for everyone. After that… move on.

But the above examples apply primarily to personal accounts.

When Is It Appropriate For A Professional To Block Someone On Twitter?

Definitely grey area. If a company wants to maintain an open door policy to its readers and potential clientele; if it wants to remain removed from personal opinion; and/or if it wants to appear capable of handling whatever comes its way; a professional account would best be served by never blocking anyone.

Customer complaints might fall into this category. Not everyone is going to voice dissatisfaction in an exemplary fashion. Company Twitter accounts should be prepared to deal with these situations. Assuming concerns are delivered in appropriate fashion, however, professional Twitter account holders will appear more in tune with their followers if responses are quick and to the point.

I have voiced complaints directly to companies via their Twitter accounts on more than one occasion. For the most part, responses were extremely friendly and helpful. Only once did a particular company respond in a less than professional manner, and that empire shall forever remain engraved on my mind as one to avoid at all costs. In all instances I maintained my civility, so apparently no blocking of my Twitter account was deemed necessary.

Twitter-Blocking Is A Personal Choice

Ultimately, whether a Twitter account represents an individual or a professional, the decision to block someone on Twitter must be in line with the account holder’s values. There can be no blanket statement on this issue because there is no all-encompassing, definitive situation defining every instance of the how and why behind a decision to block; there is no black and white. Use discretion and act wisely and your decision will likely never be questioned.

And if your decision to Twitter-block ever does come under fire, you can always resort to this answer: “What are you – the Twitter police?”

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Annie Sisk says:

    I really like the 3-question response – excellent post, Andi! I think with social media, we have to just accept that, just as with real-world relationships, people gonna hate. Nothing says we have to let them into our biosphere, though.

    • Andi-Roo says:

      Thanks, Annie! Glad you liked it. I think the problem is knowing boundaries. That is difficult enough IRL, much less with the added anonymity of internet, along with the removal of face-to-face consequences. Boundaries get really blurry without guidelines. And of course, who wants guidelines (Twitter Police)? lolz! Not me!

  • Adrienne says:

    Hi Andi-Roo,

    I guess I never gave this much thought before. Last week a friend shared a site with us that showed us how we could block people so for those who constantly posted inappropriate things I didn’t necessarily care to look at I blocked them.

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve had no confrontations with people or have seen anyone bashing of my good name. Knock on wood that never happens but like you mentioned, there will be people out there who just don’t care for what we share.

    My opinion to that is just unfollow me and problem solved.


    • Andi-Roo says:

      Adrienne, in the case of people posting inappropriate material, I would take that more as an unfriend (FB) / unfollow (Twitter) than a circumstance calling for outright blocking. But that’s just my opinion. I haven’t had to block anyone yet, so I guess I’ll jump off that bridge when I get there.

  • Hey there Andi-Roo, great to meet you here on Web Search Social!

    I think that this is a good topic in today’s world. With the accessibility many of us have due to our online lives and businesses, it can seem like an open invitation for things we don’t necessarily welcome – or, as you put it, blatant harassment.

    I, like Adrienne, have never “gotten into it” on Twitter with anyone before, but I have blocked people whose messages were either offensive to me, spammy, or just downright rude.

    I think that Bill’s advice on Twitter-blocking is sound! I think that’s actually some great advice for any social media outlet, actually.

    Great job outlining these useful tips on social etiquette! Looking forward to reading more from you!

    Best regards,

    • Andi-Roo says:

      Hi, Cat! Thanks for the warm welcome! I think you’re right about Bill’s advice being applicable to all social media outlets. I’m so glad someone asked my thoughts on this topic, since I’d never given it the time of day. Now, should anything untoward occur, I have guidelines to follow.

  • Ileane says:

    Hi Andi, I never gave too much thought to blocking people on Twitter. Every now and then I would block someone who was tweeting spammy links and telling me to come and check them out.

    Then about 3 weeks ago, I noticed some strange RT’s in my “mentions” column on HootSuite. 10 – 20 – 30 different users saying that they were Retweeting me – but they were not! I had to investigate and when I got to the bottom of it, they were doing this to a lot of bloggers, not just me – Darren Rowse, Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki were victims too.

    It was the most bizarre case of spam I ever saw and of course I blocked as many of them as I could until I got tired and I figured that eventually those accounts would be suspended. I stopped seeing those tweets so I can only assume the accounts were removed but it was totally bizarre and I’m just glad it’s over.

    • Andi-Roo says:

      Yikes! That DOES sound bizarre, Ileane! Thanks for sharing that here, so we can all be aware & on the lookout for such odd spams. I think we’d all agree that’s a perfect example of acceptable blocking!

  • Hi Andi-Roo, How great to see you over here. Excellent explanation of when we might want to block someone. You’re right, it’s my Twitter feed so I can do with it as I please.

    I am a narc and definitely report spam. But other than porn stars, I haven’t really blocked anyone other than that. I’ve been lucky, Twitter is very public but I haven’t been the subject of anyone’s public scorn.

    I hope you never need to block anyone for bad behavior on Twitter, Andi!

    • Andi-Roo says:

      heehee, thanks, Carolyn! I’m a total narc, too, & not ashamed to admit it. I figure someone’s gotta act in the public’s best interest, right? But like you, I haven’t had to block anyone for bad behavior. Most people tend to back away from my strong personality, rendering a block unnecessary. Fingers crossed that no one decides to take me on & push the envelope. I really do not look forward to my first “real” call to block. Hopefully you never have to experience that, either!

  • Hi Andi,

    I’ve never thought about blocking anyone on Twitter yet, but sure have on Facebook. The reason I haven’t on Twitter is that, oops, I’m never there, because I’m working on social media at a time.

    I do tweet a lot of posts, though, such as this one here, and as far as I know, no one is spamming me with annoying stuff, yet.

    Thank you for this excellent article 🙂

    • Andi-Roo says:

      mmm… Facebook… don’t get me started! lol! I personally do not enjoy that platform, so I don’t spend any more time there than necessary. But that’s because my family & friends are mostly on FB, so I feel somewhat chained in, if that makes sense. I love Twitter because it allows me the freedom to express myself with less backlash from personal relations.

      Having said that, I don’t believe I’ve blocked anyone on FB, although I’ve certainly been on the receiving end plenty of times. Most of that has to do with political &/or religious differences, which seems to be less of an issue for me over on Twitter. Even at that, most of the time a simple un-friending serves just as well, because neither I nor the “opposing” party care to harass each other so much as avoid each other’s posts.

      And then, of course, there are people on FB I’m obligate NOT to un-follow. I have found that muting their feed, or unsubscribing, or whatever the correct phrasing is, is satisfactory. That way we maintain a civil relationship publicly, but I’m not exposed to things I don’t care to see.

      Social media is very,very tricky when it comes to interacting with people you actually know & care about IRL!

  • I have blocked quite a few people, but it was because they sent me spam messages or links to what looked like porn. To be honest, I don’t really give this much thought as I block individuals that are only blatantly trying to push products I have no interest in.

    Not only that, people can set their tweets to private if blocking them becomes the norm. It’s your account do what you want with it. Who am I to say what’s wrong with that. If I am blocked: Peace out!

    • Me too, the second something hints of spam… block and report! You can always tell because when you go to the person’s Twitter stream you see nothing but the same junk to everyone else.