It started with a seemingly harmless question left on my personal Facebook page.
A few weeks ago, a second-rate aviation blogger with a long history of depositing negative remarks on my sites – someone I’d never met in person – made an offhanded comment about one of my children.
As my fingers touched the keyboard to answer, I paused.
I wondered: Is that a real question, or something that’s just meant to provoke me? Why am I bothering to respond?
Why is this person even a “friend” on Facebook?
Then I remembered a recent conversation with another writer, who admitted to blocking one of his harshest critics. He said he had no regrets.
And so I tried it. I unfriended, and then blocked the blogger.
It felt good.
And that was the start of my blacklist.
I’m telling you about the list now because, when it comes to the online discussion, what we say is often as important as how we say it. Manners matter. Good manners matter. Frankly, I shouldn’t need to have a blacklist, and neither should you.
I should probably start by defining my terms. By “blacklist” I mean a select group of people who are blocked from commenting on my site or communicating with me via social media, such as Facebook or Twitter.
The ban isn’t universal across every social network, which is to say, someone might be blocked on my personal Facebook page but still have access to my “fan” page, Twitter, and be allowed to comment on my site.
So why a blacklist?
Well, I’ve been online almost since there’s been an online to be on, and I’ve always believed that you should keep the channels open at all costs – and that’s especially true in my line of work as a consumer advocate. I’ve always respected those on the company side, and it’s almost always a two-way street. Lose the respect, and you can’t do your job.
But I’ve also believed that good manners are important and have done my best to ignore so-called “trolls” who make angry comments designed to provoke an online mudslinging fest.
In the case of my first blacklist subject, I’d found a troll in my own back yard, spewing inappropriate comments about my kids.
That was an easy one.
Then I started reviewing all of my Facebook “friends” and applying the same litmus test. None of them had come after my children, but some had made derogatory comments about my cats (perhaps just as bad) or below-the-belt remarks about my advocacy work.
I blacklisted them, too.
If there was one common thread in all of my reasons for blocking and unfriending them, it was this: at the end of the day, these so-called “friends” were toxic. Their comments didn’t add anything to the discussion. Instead, they dragged everyone into the mud with their negative comments, which were often disguised as a “fact-based” challenge to a story or commentary.
But the net effect was always the same. It left readers feeling guilty for wanting basic customer service from a company, and that was intolerable.