This week I took the rare (for me) decision to block someone on social media. I normally do not like to block because I see free and open communication as encouraging good science. Blocking, generally, prevents people from being exposed to the full range of ideas and makes it easier to isolate people into ideological bubbles.

So, this is a good time to describe my philosophy on muting and blocking. I only mute people that I find annoying. These people aren’t wrong per se . . . they just tweet excessively or in a repetitive manner. I never mute people because I disagree with them. My purpose in muting is to maximize my enjoyment on social media.

Blocking is more drastic, and I feel that it needs a higher standard than “being annoying.” I block people who use racial epithets and ethnic slurs, anti-Semites, harassers, and anti-religion bigots.

I also block people who clearly are not interested in engaging in an exchange of ideas. These people do not listen to anything me or my followers have to say and seem to participate in the social media conversation in bad faith. This can take different forms, including using my social media posts to broadcast their ignorance, twisting scientifically accepted ideas to serve ideology (instead of truth), or refusing to listen to others’ honest data-based perspectives.

“I’m not listening. La la la la la la la la!”
Yeah, I’ll block you for this on social media.

The list may seem long, but in reality few people meet these standards. On my personal Facebook page (which I have had for 14 years), I have blocked 25 people. On Twitter, I have blocked 10 accounts and muted 16 since joining 8 years ago. So, if I have blocked someone, you know their behavior is bad.

Social media is a great tool, but it also has the potential to be a cesspool. Your standards of what is worth blocking and muting may vary, but this is what I need in order to enjoy my time online and make valuable contributions to the scientific conversation.

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