Online Social Etiquette: When To Block Someone On Twitter

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?”