I never thought this would happen to me, but it has. Someone out there, in virtual reality, had the audacity to ban me from their virtual life on the net. I thought that it had no meaning, but it has. I now realise that you can ignore somebody you don’t even know exists, in the first place. As I have had the privilege of being blocked by a Facebook user, I cannot resist the temptation of exploring the psychology of blocking on social media, and its implications on my well-being. I feel as if reality has finally caught up with cyberspace. This is all about the physical violence in a virtual decorum, where invisibility has been kicked out of virtuality.
It all started with a few misplaced comments on one of my posts. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind if someone doesn’t agree with me, or even finds my posts irrelevant. Gosh! Even I find my own posts sometimes irrelevant. I know that my eyes are most of the time pointing towards the heavens, but that may just be my way of avoiding the aggressions of the ground. Anyway, this guy was getting dangerously close to my “comfort zone” – a zone where things start to get personal. Cyberspace, for me, must remain cyberspace – where the written word remains the written word, where photo’s remain photo’s, and where people remain virtual.
You may well interact with my writings, but not with me. Being told that, “you seem like a nice person, but I don’t like your views,” poses problems. Not the second part of the sentence, but the first. How can someone who has never seen me, know if I’m nice or not. Just maybe, I’m a serial murderer!
Being commented on is not a problem, being personally commented on is. I will never accept that someone can pretend to know who I am, having solely come across my words floating around in cyberspace. I told him that, “if [your] comments get personal, I block.” He took that as a threat and, in all logic, applied to me, the same sanction that he was feeling threatened by!! Well, to each his logic.
But enough ranting, methinks. Let us concentrate on the psychosomatic effects of blocking on social media.
I suppose no message could be clearer than the thought of “BLOCK” being hit by a trembling, but furious, middle finger. The effects are immediate, and there is nothing I can do about it. This is virtual reality where I can be physically blocked. In real life, of course, he wouldn’t have blocked me, but “ghosted” me – a rather subtle emotion where he would slowly but surely diminish his interactions with me, in order to eventually stop seeing me. Here, on the internet, I cannot even ask for redemption, because I have been reduced from virtuality – not everything it is hyped out to be – to nothingness, absolute zero. I will never hear from him again, nor he from me. I suppose that, following the laws of physics that state that matter cannot be destroyed but only transformed from one form to another, I have not been destroyed but have crossed the Styx to find myself on “Oblivion Island” with hundreds of other poor blighters who have been blocked. No peace and quiet, then.
Facebook is more than just a gallery of cats and dogs. It is a dumping place for users who can post anything that catches their fancy, without the necessity to read what they post. It resembles the irresponsible pedestrian who throws his chocolate paper wrapper on the pavement, and walks away as if nothing had happened. That’s precisely how I feel about most of the threads that I read. To be honest, I have now become immune to misplaced reactions on the internet. I have accepted social media for what it really is – an infinite space of emptiness. The highest emotional state that you can reach is one of anonymity that you perceive as power, when your post or comment has received 1000 likes and even more shares. The lowest point you can reach is an abrupt passage from virtual reality to the real world, outside of your computer, in under a second.
But I must give credit where credit is due. My cynical frustration concerning a social tool that is being misused, does not really apply to the Facebook groups whose members are fighting the woes of Brexit. These groups are remarkable by the engagement of most of their members, and the way they seem to read and share what is posted. It probably reflects the potential seriousness of the situation.
As far as my lost Facebook “blocker” is concerned, we weren’t even Facebook friends and, in the end, there are no hard feelings, of course. How can there be, when the space between us was so virtual. If I analyse my feelings, I suppose that my ego has taken a bit of a knock, for a few seconds. Not because I was blocked, but because I wanted to block him before he could block me.
Nevermind, there are plenty more fish in the sea, even if they are invisible. Look, I’ve found a new friend already and he, surely, won’t block me because he shares my views on life in this brave, new, and virtual, world.