If you're asking yourself if it's rude to block people on social media, you might actually be asking yourself if it's rude to ignore people in general. It's not usually something you're confronted with in real life, because in reality there is generally a thick, black line between when we can blatantly ignore someone and when we have to grit our teeth and bear it. If it's just an acquaintance, then simply trying to avoid them in social situations can go a long way. Of course, if it's a coworker or someone with whom we're forced to interact, we don't have a lot of choice. There might have to be a self-enforced politeness to get through the situation.
But social media is different territory. A vague, uncharted territory where no one quite knows where real-life etiquette applies or some new digital decorum begins. But here's something we do know: If you unfriend or block people on social media, you're likely to avoid them in real life as well [source: Kelly]. In other words, your digital declaration of divorce from a contact probably means you have no interest in ringing them up for a happy hour date this week. And those who are unfriended or blocked also tend to avoid the instigator, although women are more likely to avoid contact [source: Kelly].
There's actually much to be said for showing more passive behavior online when the digital realm seems to breed aggressive communication. Some argue that we simply don't feel the same inhibition online than we do in real life, when we can't see an immediate or even long-term reaction to our words [source: Bernstein]. That means that we can't feel the same amount of empathy for people online that we do for people in real life. Lack of empathy can breed confrontational behavior, as any decent psychopath will tell you.
Most people would agree that engaging in a public fight is probably ruder than disengaging. Blocking someone on social media is pretty much that: politely declining to involve yourself in a response to someone's digital drivel. So if the alternative to blocking someone is taking part in immature, ill-advised or otherwise obnoxious social media communication? Best to block, and leave the rest of your social media friends out of it.
Keep in mind that blocking someone isn't the same as asserting they don't deserve to have an opinion or telling them that their view is wrong. Essentially, you're just ignoring them [source: Plante]. In an age saturated with social media static, blocking out some unwanted noise might just be the most polite thing you can do.
- Bernstein, Elizabeth. "Why We Are So Rude Online." The Wall Street Journal. Oct. 2, 2012. (March 11, 2015) http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390444592404578030351784405148
- Elgan, Mike. "Why Blocking People Makes the World a Better Place." Datamation. Aug. 29, 2015. (March 11, 2015) http://www.datamation.com/networks/why-blocking-people-makes-the-world-a-better-place-1.html
- Kelly, David. "Study Shows Facebook Unfriending Has Real Offline Consequences." University of Colorado Denver. Feb. 4, 2013. (March 11, 2015) http://www.ucdenver.edu/about/newsroom/newsreleases/Pages/Study-shows-Facebook-unfriending-can-have-offline-consequences.aspx
- Plante, Chris. "You're not using Twitter's best feature enough: block people." The Verge. Oct. 9, 2014. (March 11, 2015) http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/9/6951165/twitter-block-people