This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rohini Banerjee. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

When Is It OK To Block Someone, And What Does It Truly Mean?

More from Rohini Banerjee

Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #NoPlace4Hate, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook have joined hands to help make the Internet a safer space for all. Watch this space for powerful stories of how young people are mobilising support and speaking out against online bullying.

When do you block somebody?

It was a question my mother, the relatively uninitiated social media user, asked me one day. To my mother, who was still unaware of the uglier face of the internet, the block feature seemed unfathomable. After all, the whole point of social media was to connect with people, so why have a feature designed exclusively to shut them out? In attempting to answer her question, I found myself mulling over the same. When is it OK to block someone, and what does it truly entail? Is the feature really an indispensable one?

Each platform has its own set of rules and criteria when it comes to blocking or reporting a user, but the essence of it remains the same. Blocking a user would entail them never seeing any of your posts again, or never being able to interact with you on that platform. Reporting a user, on the other hand, takes it a step further, helping you flag potentially harmful or triggering content that may alert the said platform to take steps to remove it. When it comes to reporting, the territory becomes slightly dicier, because the criterion in place comes across far too arbitrary in many cases.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have failed on multiple counts to check hate speech, rape threats, white supremacy or other such violence-inciting posts, while they have suspended accounts for speaking up against abuse, or for women claiming their bodies on their own terms. But the irony is, this is exactly when one employs the ‘report’ feature – when they are being both verbally or physically threatened, abused, and targeted – and the fact that the features that are meant to be safeguards might not entirely be effective in being so, lends them a major question mark. Online harassment is not a new phenomenon, and neither is the impulse to “report” it. But when this feature fails, the next best option is to block.

Blocking, hence, almost becomes an act of self-care. It keeps the negativity, the triggering content, the personal threats at bay, while giving you some semblance of calm. Unlike the report feature, to ‘block’ is a one-dimensional act; something that solely removes a certain harmful presence from your timelines. It does not offer any kind of long-term online safety, but it’s a start. To block is to personally curate your feed, to pick and choose who you want in it, and who you do not; because, at the end of the day, you as the user gets to control your online presence and interactions.

However, while the ‘block’ or ‘report’ function almost become a necessity when it comes to online harassment, sometimes they also end up being misused. When trolls begin mass-reporting a page or person, that particular entity comes under unfair attack – as was the case with a journalist earlier this year, who protested the deeply misogynistic lyrics of the viral rap song ‘Bol Na Aunty’, and subsequently faced the ire of sexist meme pages. This set a dangerous precedent, ending up being a blatant misappropriation of Facebook’s very same anti-harassment features to facilitate the harassment of another individual. And sadly enough, this wasn’t the only case.

But even when internet trolls or lax community standards aren’t jeopardizing these features, the ‘block’ and ‘report’ often comes into play even in the tiniest of online arguments. Whether it’s a falling out over political beliefs, or a simple difference of opinion, blocking or muting (on Twitter, especially) is absurdly common. Even if these motivations for blocking aren’t directly harmful, some might argue that they still trivialize the features, reduce it to a tool for settling petty fights rather than combat the real problems of abuse that they were meant to. While there is some weight to such an argument, I am not entirely inclined to denounce this particular brand of blocking (although reporting does go a bit too far in this case). Just because you block a certain user for expressing differing opinion does not mean you aren’t willing to engage with opposing views. The opposing views may be inflammatory, and even if they aren’t, they might affect your mental health in insidious ways.

Here, again, to block becomes an act of self-care. It is the embodiment of controlling your online narrative in a way you can’t with your real-world narrative. Social media should ideally give you a lot more agency to see what you want, to talk to who you want, and to avoid who you want. More often than not, it can provide a reprieve from the patterns of real-life violence one can’t escape. And so, it’s the user’s prerogative to make sure what’s on their feed is wholly and entirely conducive to them, that they can build a safe space of their own sans any kind of negativity or hate. Hence, to answer my mother’s question, the ‘block’ button is merely the facilitator ensuring your healthier, happier online existence.

You must be to comment.

More from Rohini Banerjee

Similar Posts

By Arun Chandra

By Arun Chandra

By Arun Chandra

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below