Why The Block Button Is Your Friend | #HappyIs2016

Norman Parkinson

It's been a running joke online, particularly here in Ireland, about my notorious blocking of individuals on my social media accounts. It's become an "achievement" for some to get blocked by me (I shit you not). I was discussing with a friend earlier about the importance of the block button online, after she confided in me over receiving her first bout of online trolling. I thought it was about time I jotted my thoughts down on this because in 2016, I'm simply tired of discussing how vile, dangerous and unprogressive cyber bullying is.

I've mentioned this before but I feel I need to scream it from the rooftops to get the point across: THE BLOCK BUTTON IS YOUR FRIEND. The block button isn't available on social media for the hell of it - it's there to help you enjoy your online experience, without having to encounter and deal with things or people you don't want to see or hear from on a daily basis.

I've been blogging seven years this year but I've been "online" as such, for over a decade now. I've received nasty comments and have been cyber bullied since my early days on Bebo so at this stage in my online life, I feel I'm an expert on the subject - having been the subject of it.

Blocking is really quite simple: it's there to protect a user from experiencing or encountering something that makes them feel uncomfortable online. Whether that be a person cyber bullying you, a misogynistic account, a homophobic account and so on. It's there to aid your online experience and encourage you to enjoy your time spent on the internet.

When I receive or see the typical "Leanne Woodfull is such a X, Y and Z" tweet, my first reaction is to block the individual. Why? If an individual whom I've never met, approached me on the street and started speaking to or about me in a degrading, insulting or generally negative manner, I'd leave the situation as it would obviously cause upset to me and make me feel uneasy.

Blocking is the virtual way of "walking away" from a situation. Some may think you're only giving these people what they want (a laugh) from blocking - in my case, certainly - but quite simply, I don't really care. I'd rather enjoy my online experience and not have to encounter mean or insulting comments about me on a daily basis from the same group of people, than not block them at all based on what others may think of me or my online protocol.

Blocking is an essential tool for online users - especially for those under the age of 18. My two young sisters are under the ages of 11 and alike to most kids, they're active online and know how to use an abundance of social platforms. My sisters are active on Youtube mostly. They watch videos on Minecraft and their favourite tv episodes; as most of you are aware, Youtube is horrific for trolling. 

I can't protect my sisters from seeing the comments underneath a video but at the very least, I can teach them about online etiquette and how to use the 'block' button. It's an easy click for them to learn and it teaches them how to 'walk away' from a negative situation they might encounter.

Online etiquette and the effects of cyber bullying are only being discussed in schools now - my generation didn't have this, as we were new to social media ourselves. The majority of online abuse I still receive, comes from adults. Generally people in and around my age, who've been engaging in it towards me and about me for years (they have a lot of time on their hands, evidently).

There's a huge issue with this and the lack of education we received as teenagers about online bullying and engagement. HOW can we teach the youth of today about the importance of being a decent human being online, if adults are continuously engaging in cyber bullying themselves?

There's at least 10 individuals who crop up tweeting or posting about me regularly in some bitchy form or another; the same people, the same tweets. It admittedly gets boring and tiring after a while. I guess it's an age thing but I honestly rarely feel hurt anymore, I just genuinely feel for the person and their peers themselves. If you get a kick out of bringing someone down, especially as a grown adult, it's a reflection on yourself and your mindset, than the actual person you're discussing.

I'm old enough now to take a lot of it on the chin but it's sent me down some very, very dark roads in the past. I'm open about my depression and anxiety and my family would agree with me when I say my online experience is the cause of many of the struggles I deal with today. However, I know how to handle these situations as a (nearly) 23 year old - I block, I ignore, I get on with my day. Some people unfortunately can't see these experiences that way and bottle everything up. The rise in suicides, self harm, anxiety disorders and depression in our generation and younger can't be ignored; the internet and our engagements online are hugely at fault for this.

We must teach young people, older people, people our own age, that online bullying of ANY form - to WHOMEVER - is not acceptable. Whether it be a school mate or a celebrity - we need to reign it in. We need to educate people on how to leave situations virtually that they don't want to be a part of. 

The block button is essential. Who cares if it humours the person and/ or people you're blocking? Who cares if it's seen as 'controversial' to do so? Your mental health and happiness are your priorities and if pressing that one button on your twitter account can help you to enjoy your online experience, then so be it.