Twitter Blocking ~ Smart or Drama Queen Move?

Friends & Frenemies on social media

Like a family vacation to the zoo, Twitter should be exciting and educational. But not too exciting. You can do without your toddler feeding the lions his leftover donut just like you can do without the high school drama that sometimes comes with social media.

It’s called social media for a reason – it’s social. It works best when we communicate as human beings, sharing tidbits of our real ourselves. Not when we’re living in “Brand-Land” and touting the party line. Like real life relationships, communication breaks down and feelings get hurt.

Whether you’re using social media personally, professionally or to represent a brand, the emotional jungle can be tricky to navigate. Instead of giving up or putting on false airs, dive in and have fun. Just remember to engage your emotional IQ before letting your inner child throw a temper tantrum.

I like you, let’s be friends

Being on Twitter is a little like knocking on the gates to the Emerald City. Oh, the wondrous opportunities waiting on the other side. But it comes with a price. Opening an account and tweeting is an invitation to the world that you’re available. You’re here to talk, get to know people, do business – whatever it is you want to do.

You have to give to get, pay to play, insert whatever cliché you like best.

With each person who follows you, an implicit contract is written. For their valuable time and attention, you agree to be authentic and honest. Although they’ll tolerate some marketing messages, you don’t have permission to fill up their stream with links to your products or services. And it’s mutual. They sign the same contract, which gives you the right to unfollow when they misbehave.

Key point – it’s your choice. Twitter doesn’t lock you into following someone just because they follow you. The choice is always yours. Stay and play or take your fun elsewhere.

Talk to the hand, Dude

Like real life, Twitter is filled with a smorgasbord of personalities. From weird Uncle Harry who’s always 3 sheets to the wind (even at 7 am) to that frenemy who says she likes you to your face but as soon as you’re not around, the air is blue with tales of your treachery.

And because Twitter can be like high school (filled with narcissistic, all-about-me people) getting caught in conflict is far too easy. 

But let’s be real for a minute. We’re all on Twitter for a reason – we have a story to tell and we want people to hear it. That story might be about a product or service but it might be about your joys and frustrations and financial struggles as a single mom. It might be your way of staying in touch you’re your grandchildren. Understanding why your followers are on Twitter (think active listener) will help you communicate better with them.

When the importance of telling your story shifts to actually hearing other stories, you naturally eliminate conflict. You’re no longer competing for attention. And when you’re the listener (think the bartender) your relationships become stronger and people want to engage with you – because they know you’re there for them, not using them. When you remain competitive about telling your story, emotions run high and no one wins.

If these walls could talk

Nothing on Twitter is private. Every joy, frustration and conflict lives forever in this fishbowl we’ve created. Regardless of whether you’re on Twitter personally, professionally or to represent a brand, why would you engage in conflict knowing that?

My Dad used to tell me that the bigger person walks away from a fight and I have to tell you, it’s no easier to do it on Twitter than it was when I was kid on the schoolyard. But I can also tell you, turning away, keeping your back straight and walking with purpose has the same effect now as it did back then. Dad was right.

When emotions get out of hand, there are ways to deal with it.

  • Offer up the olive branch and save the other person’s dignity.
  • Pick up the phone and talk to them
  • State your position and move on

Some people feed off of conflict and are happiest when they’re stirring the pot. When you’ve exhausted all other channels – or if the conflict is just not worth the drama – move on. Unfollow the person and carry on with your other relationships.

And if that person doesn’t take the hint that you don’t want to engage, block them. It won’t prevent them from doing their paranoid checks on your stream but it will slow down their access to you. It also won’t prevent them from tweeting to you – but your response is your choice.

Define your rules of engagement and stick to them.

There is no “one” right way to engage on Twitter – but there is a wrong way. I asked a few of my friends on Twitter if they’ve ever blocked someone. The answers were thoughtful, smart and, in my opinion, emotionally mature. Unlike some people I’ve blocked…

Dhatfield – If someone gets blocked – there’s a reason. Each of us create our own online experience and blocking is one way to do it. We should never have to explain or apologize for blocking someone online that is not contributing in a positive way.



MitchPopilchak – I tried to unfollow but that wasn’t enough, and it should have been. Personal circle. And I was grilled on it. I just did what some others wanted to do. Still standing firm. No regrets.

Benjaminbach – I’ve blocked people, and been called on it. I explain why I blocked them.

Karen_C_Wilson – I probably wouldn’t block someone I know unless we had a falling out. I have blocked non-bots tho

FlourishFlorals – Someone who tweeted racist remarks.

BrianJacklin – Absolutely! It’s my feed after all, right?

AMotherhoodBlog – I haven’t blocked anyone I know personally but I’ve blocked mean people who’ve upset me via twitter before.

What does your Twitter stream say about you or your company? What are your rules of engagement?

Got social media questions? Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or connect with me on LinkedIn – I’m always on.

19 Responses to “Twitter Blocking ~ Smart or Drama Queen Move?”

  1. Great post Julia! Love reading the other points of view about blocking as well as your advice on how to manage conflict. Dad was right and learning to walking (or tweet) with purpose when there are those that just want to poke a stick at you is difficult but worth every step and key stroke. The social space is constantly evolving and just like cell phones, there has been no real etiquette guide on what’s expected. . . we all just have to use common sense, patience and know when to walk away. Thanks again for sharing! 🙂

    • Julia Rosien says:

      THanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Daneielle. You and Brandon are doing an amazing job in the digital space and I appreciate sharing and learning with you and from you.

      • Thanks Julia! We are constantly learning and growing thanks to smart, funny and helpful people like you.

        This was a timely post that addresses some of the not so nice sides of social media. One thing that was brought up last week over dinner was :: what about those people who are in charge of *many social media brand accounts and use them to go after a rival, competitor or a person they don’t particularly like? From the public’s view this person is getting attacked/poked/made fun of by many when in all actuality it is only one. . . I have heard very little on this subject and am interested in your thoughts on how to handle a situation like that.

        • Julia Rosien says:

          Wow, Danielle, sounds very much like cyber-bullying for adults. If anyone were shameful and childish enough to do such a thing and others saw it, I would hope they would speak up and help. I can’t say that I’ve had personal experience with this issue – and I’m shaking my head at the absolute meanness that some people harbor. Like real life, there are nice people and jerks around every corner, right?

          Have you personally seen someone do this to another? What did you do?

          • Sad to say Julia that I have experienced it myself.

            And you are right, there are nice people and jerks. . . and this is where blocking comes in handy. We all create our own experience online. Walking away from bad behavior and not feeding the trolls is the solution. (and not always easy) I prefer to stay focused on my personal goals and surround my self with people who genuinely care vs. those who only engage when they want something.

            How did I handle this? I stopped engaging with the brand, unfollowed them and once I found out who the person/company responsible for the brand was . . . they got voted off too.

            The bigger issue relating to what I call “The Social Media Sideshow” is that most of the brands being represented by those people with less than ethical standards, may not know of or see the bullying/poking/backhanded comments that are going on online.

            How can you keep the CEO informed of what is happening to their brand online when they have a bully in the cockpit?

          • Julia Rosien says:

            Danielle, I don’t think this situation is any different than any experience we have with brands. If I’m at Staples and the sales associate is helpful, friendly and happy, I’m likely to associate those emotions with Staples. On the other hand, if my experience at Staples is frustrating, I may go somewhere else next time I’m in need of office supplies. IF the experience involves something I find disrespectful or shameful, I will voice my concerns to the manager.

            Every employee is a brand ambassador, whether they’re in the cockpit or not. But whether you pass along your disappointment and frustration when you see foul play by one of those ambassadors …. well that’s a choice we all must make.

            Thanks so much for joining in this discussion, Danielle. This is why I adore you and am happy to recommend your company.

  2. Hi Julia,
    Thank you for a very insightful blog about blocking on Twitter. I like the idea you presented of “defining your rules of engagement” and sticking with them. So here’s a question about blocking. What about the corporate Twitter accounts and their most aggressive competitors? One of the things I love about Twitter is how competitors sometimes become friends and actually may help each other. Unfortunately not everyone follows that philosophy and may use Twitter as a means to harass or spy on a competitor. Of course any competitor can spy on any other by stalking the account, but is is PC to block a sneaky business competitor you strongly suspect is only up to no good? Or just don’t follow them back and just ignore any unethical tweets?

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hi Karen,
      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. You’re 100% right – tweeting from a brand perspective is a very different kettle of fish. When I tweet from a brand account, I follow those who follow the brand to ensure the backend of the communication channel is open. If a problem arises, they have an opportunity to DM you instead of publicly posting everything. In terms of sketchy followers of brands, I don’t worry too much about that – I want to provide value and I’m not here to judge my community. But if they’re using pornography or disrepectful in their stream I might unfollow them – each case is different.

      When it comes to competitors, I follow all of them and I hope they follow me. If they’re watching what I’m doing, good, then I’m leading. They might be able to copy what I’m doing but I’m still leading, right? Let them follow, chat with them once in a while and carry on as the leader. If you think about it, they can’t really steal anything from you – because everything you’re doing is public anyway. If they’re disrespectful, they get the same treatment as the sketchy followers from above.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Karen says:

    I’m glad you found my comments useful. The part of this post that I think is really key is here in these lines from you and Dhatfield:

    “There is no “one” right way to engage on Twitter – but there is a wrong way.”

    “Dhatfield – If someone gets blocked – there’s a reason. Each of us create our own online experience and blocking is one way to do it. We should never have to explain or apologize for blocking someone online that is not contributing in a positive way.”

    I wrote a post about “customizing your experience” on social media and I really believe that is each individual’s responsibility. Not just a right, honestly, because the tools all give us that ability. It’s a responsibility because otherwise, the tools lose value. I don’t believe in reciprocity. I don’t believe in letting a lack of reciprocity or unfollows get me down. I do, however, recognize that there are users who can’t separate the emotional hurt from being unfollowed, so I always suggest they just don’t check. It’s so much better to use social media in a way that is helpful and doesn’t adversely affect your health – mental, physical or emotional.

  4. Carla Jones says:

    Hi to everyone,
    I’m reading your comments with great interest. I’m relatively new to social media and haven’t used Twitter at all, although expect to do so soon. I’ve learned something new today, so thanks!

  5. Great post Julia! I have blocked people for sexual advances, sexual solicitation (a good supply of call girls out there!) and solicitation for other services like insurance that have nothing to do with the topics and content I curate (social media, social networking and social business). Other commenters have made the point and I agree that we each have a responsibility to maintain the quality of our feeds. I’m careful to be open to anyone who wants to follow and participate but vigilant about making sure that those who follow see content that is relevant to the discussion I’m trying to have via Twitter. Always enjoy your tweets – thanks for raising the topic.

  6. I check to see the profile of a follower first, look at their recent tweets, and how many followers they have. I have immediately blocked some at that point if they never tweet, have nothing real to say (just using it as a chat-line), have links to suspicious sites and are apparently rascist, fascist, outright obnoxious, and follow no-one (living in their own little world, dispensing judgements, or just ‘too good’ to accept anyone elses views).
    I give some the benefit of the doubt if they are only one of those things, but not if they are all of those things.
    Some are just following because it’s their job to sniff out your consumer profile, or to win your trust before they hit you with the real agenda one day. These are tolerable and understandable, but it is my choice to RT their message (if the product is actually any good) or ignore them, or as a last resort block them.
    As with most things prevention is better than cure, and everyone runs the risk of being ‘drawn in’ slowly by someone with an ‘evil twin/alter ego/hidden agenda’. Worse they can invade your software with spams, spyware or viruses.’Protect’ yourself.
    Twitter is the best venue for people with ideas, ideals and a sharing spirit. The other venues are better for chats, vitreol, gossip and drawn out conceptualizations by people with a need to give ‘too much information’. Here on twiiter we can easily adopt or disown our circle of family and friends, without real harm to dignity or reputations..
    You know you are on to a good set of followers and followees, when you wake up, and sign on, and every other tweet is stimulating. Sometimes I wonder if I can keep up with the plethora of good ideas, images, and emotional content I see from my own ‘family’. Enjoy the companionship and be free to express yourself politely, diplomatically, passionately, and briefly…haha

  7. Boy you hit the nail on the head with your Dad’s advice. It is even worse when you have to do this with someone you had partnered to build a community with and brought them on board. Patience wins out as well.

    Having to practice that patience for a whole year until enough people experienced the same, the people who either stood by and watched it happening not saying anything or worse joined the convo with them became parties to the same bullying behavior now directed at them has a certain level of satisfaction.

    I am with you I vote for walking away and holding your head high when you know you did you best to deal with a beast!

    Now, the interesting thing to ask is when you put on blinders, are you part of the problem by being a by stander while they beat up someone? I do not have the answer to that one.

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hey Michele, thanks for stopping by my blog with such thoughtful commentary. I think it’s actually harder when the person you block is someone you know in real life. It does feel wrong to take a strong stance against another but sometimes it’s the only option. As for blinders, I only use mine when it’s something I have to be a big girl about and walk away from. When I see bullying directed to another, I’m pretty vocal. I would hope others would stand up and be my advocate when I need one – so I do the same.

      None of this is easy and can get messy and hurtful. But if we want social media to reflect real life, we have to deal with the good, bad and the ugly.

      Thanks again for your comments!

  8. Greg says:

    Great article Julia!

    When I was the manager of group homes I went to a terrific seminar about setting boundaries and it’s something that I use in all aspects of my life today.

    If someone makes me feel uncomfortable or they are harmful to others – I block them without hesitation. I welcome criticism and conflicting points of view but I demand respect.

    I’ve met so many people on social media and the vast majority are kind and insightful people who light up my life. The odd weed that pokes through the flowers doesn’t destroy the whole garden – but also isn’t going to last very long either.

    Take care!



  1. […] What first caught my attention when I discovered Julia’s blog, was how each and every blogpost was filled with her personal experiences in Social Media. Some great examples are her thoughts on Social Media conferences, or Twitter etiquette. […]

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