Home Cyberpsychology & Technology Why We Block People on Social Media

Why We Block People on Social Media

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Blocking someone on social media has become as common as unfriending, but the psychology behind this act remains complex and layered. We can forge connections with a click but sever them just as swiftly. So why do we opt for such drastic severance? While the action might be straightforward, navigating the labyrinth of human emotions and motivations behind it is far from simple.

Emotional self-defence

We often use blocking as a form of emotional self-defence. The immediate benefit is shielding oneself from drama, emotional fatigue, or even potential harassment. In essence, we’re creating a digital sanctuary. A 2016 study indicated that emotional discomfort, including stress from disagreements or bad interactions, frequently prompts us to block others. In the sanctuary of our controlled social media spaces, we decide who gains entry and who doesn’t, effectively managing our emotional and mental landscape.

Controlling the narrative of your life

Having control over personal narratives is important in a world that’s always watching. Social media offers a stage to display various aspects of our lives, but it’s a double-edged sword. This same stage is open for criticism, misinterpretation, and even manipulation. Blocking becomes a tool to reclaim this narrative, safeguarding the individual’s personal story from being hijacked or misconstrued. Researchers have found that the need for control over personal information plays a crucial role in the decision to block someone.

Social cohesion and the urge to belong

The need for social cohesion often underpins our actions on social media platforms. Being part of a group that shares your values or interests can be comforting, but it can also push you to exclude those who don’t fit the mould.

People are more likely to block individuals who disrupt the ethos of a community or diverge from shared beliefs. Blocking, in this context, is akin to social filtration – keeping your digital environment closely aligned with your personal values.

Fears of confrontation

Though digital, social media doesn’t eliminate the fear of confrontation; it merely alters its dynamics. Blocking serves as an escape route, an eject button that saves you from facing awkward or volatile situations. It’s an easy out that doesn’t necessitate the emotional labour that confrontations typically demand.

Is blocking fair?

The ability to block with a click presents ethical challenges, particularly when the person on the receiving end is left in the dark about why they’ve been excluded. Such acts can foster confusion, emotional distress, and even perpetuate cycles of misunderstandings and non-communication. So, while blocking is empowering for some, it can be disempowering for others, raising questions about the ethics of digital interactions.

The complex psychology of a simple action

Blocking is a simple action but understanding its psychological underpinnings reveals a complex web of motivations and consequences. Whether used for emotional self-preservation, control over one’s narrative, or social cohesion, the act of blocking on social media is multi-faceted. It can be a liberating tool, but it also comes with its share of ethical and social responsibilities.

As we continue to evolve within the digital space, understanding why we block people will help us navigate the increasingly intricate landscape of online interactions.


Scarlett O’Harrow is a freelance journalist who focuses on the interplay between psychology and technology.

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