Blocking people on social media is a powerful tool, but should people use it?
Getting blocked by a celebrity has become both a pseudo status symbol for people looking for a taste of fame, and a powerful tool for activists looking for greater visibility. Meanwhile, others have used the blocking feature as a way to maintain healthier relationships with loved ones off-line.
However, blocking people or getting blocked is a big step and can lead to some unintentional pitfalls. “People don’t realize that online is the new first impression,” said Patricia Rossi, a business etiquette coach, speaker and author. “If you tweet out that you were blocked by someone and a high-profile client is thinking of hiring you, that won’t leave a good first impression.”
To avoid ruffling too many feathers via your online presence, here is what etiquette experts say are the do’s an don’t’s when it comes to blocking others on social media.
Is it appropriate to block other people on social media?
On this, social media experts agree: The answer is yes. “It’s OK to block, unfriend or shut down an account for pretty much any reason,” said Daniel Post Senning, the great-great grandson of etiquette icon Emily Post and a co-author of the 18th edition of “Emily Post’s Etiquette.”
In particular, social media users should not feel uncomfortable about blocking anyone who is abusive, toxic or otherwise inappropriate on social media. It’s also completely appropriate to block someone on one specific social network but remain connected with them on another.
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“It is OK to block a former boss or coworker on social sites like Facebook FB, +1.18%Twitter TWTR, -0.53% Instagram, or Snapchat SNAP, -1.36% but stay connected to them through business networking platforms such as LinkedIn,” said Sharon Schweitzer, a cross-cultural and international etiquette expert.
Should you tell someone you’re blocking them before you do?
Again, etiquette experts agree that in most cases no explanation is necessary — in fact, it could be better to go ahead and block the person without forewarning. “The way that you block them is you just block them,” said Diane Gottsman, author of “ Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “You don’t owe them an explanation.”
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The exception would be in cases where the person is a close friend, family member or colleague off-line. In these cases, Post Senning said it’s important to think about how blocking someone else will be received — if an explanation is warranted, he suggested approaching it like one would when leaving a party. “I wouldn’t over-dramatize an exit,” he said. “If you’re going to change the nature of a relationship, you might want to offer an explanation if it’ll make it easier for them.”
How should people respond when they have been blocked?
On this point, the road forward is less clear. For starters, many experts suggested not taking an action like this personally. “It’s like a wedding guest list — people have to make choices and you shouldn’t take it too personally,” Post Senning, who is also host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast, said.
Whether the “blockee” needs to send an apology — if it’s possible that a slight was committed — depends on the prior relationship. If it was at most a casual acquaintance, no response is necessary. And with people who are close, chances are the blocked individual knows whether they did something wrong, said Jay Remer, protocol and corporate etiquette consultant.