Pilgrims and Stealth Blocking

Imagine you’re out on social media, socializing. You follow a few hundred or a few thousand people on Twitter. You don’t talk to all of them all the time, but you’ve got some close friends you talk to almost every day, and some other casual friends you like to keep in touch with.

Then, every now and then, you stumble across a random tweet from a total stranger. It contains a clever joke or something related to your interests. Or maybe they’re chatting with friends of yours and you think they could become your friend, too. So you reach out to make that first connection, by clicking the “favorite” button.

Then you receive the message, “Your account is unable to perform this action.”

Confused, you click on the person’s name, and, SURPRISE, they have you blocked!

Welcome to America, the land where we don’t resolve our problems. We run from them.

The first European settlers that founded the colonies that eventually became the United States came over here fleeing religious persecution (they also started wars with the people who already lived here and stole their lands, but that’s another discussion for another blog post). They could have stayed in England and continued fighting for social reform, but instead they decided to flee to a new land. Later, the colonies couldn’t resolve their problems of taxation without representation (among other things), rather than taking the time to resolve those problems, we had a war so we could be left alone to do our own thing. Then, years later, the southern states wanted to continue having slaves (among other things) and couldn’t find a resolution with the northern states and tried to just leave and start their own country.

…noticing a pattern yet?

As a society, we have a foundation based on avoiding our problems. You can see it in almost every issue that springs up in modern society. It’s why a group of senators sent a letter to Iran behind the president’s back, instead of working out their problems with Obama himself. It’s why our divorce rate has been so high for years. It’s why my mother, my sisters, and I haven’t spoken in eight years. We’re a culture of avoiding problems instead of confronting them.

Thus, we invented the “block” button, and we use it liberally.

I’ve blocked hundreds of people on Twitter. Most of them are random sexist, homophobic trolls that I just don’t want to deal with. But a few are former friends that I got into irreconcilable arguments with. Rather than resolving them, we block each other. I see other friends of mine blocking people all the time for similar reasons.

In a way, we’re making our own “countries” on Twitter. In my Twitter nation, most of the people are liberal, none are homophobic, all support equal rights for all races and genders, and most of us are writers. But sometimes I’ll explore some hashtag or another and find an entire nation of super-conservative Christian fundamentalists complaining about gay marriage, or another nation full of gun-toting militants who want to kick all Muslims out of the country and close our borders. While I block those kinds of people, they thrive together, and if I were to try to argue against their views, they’d swarm at me en masse. It’s hard to convince someone that their views are wrong when they’ve got a few hundred like-minded people agreeing with them.

So we don’t resolve anything. We don’t find a middle ground. We don’t figure out a compromise. We just separate ourselves from each other, form our own independent nations, and plug our ears so we don’t have to hear what the other people are saying.

Maybe one day we’ll form a colony on Mars. And then when we get into arguments about how to terraform the new world, half the colonists will blast off and head to another planet so they don’t need to deal with each other.


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