Ignorance is Not Bliss: Why Blocking Someone With Different Views is Counterproductive
Updated: Sep 21
This issue became exacerbated with the 2016 presidential election. What people in power say on national television, social media, and to other countries and governments allows others with similar viewpoints to feel that they can voice their opinions that were once considered “wrong” or “ignorant". People can have different opinions, but these opinions become dangerous when they distribute hate and/or harm.
This is not a rant about political correctness or morals. It can be so easy to just block someone and move on - you never have to see their posts on your feed or see their comments on your posts. But what happens to that person’s ideology? Blocking them still leaves them with their dangerous opinion - and no one to tell them otherwise. At the end of the day, their only followers are people who agree and support them.
Here’s an example: an old neighbor that you friended on Facebook makes a post regarding the stupidity of Pride parades and how rainbows were stolen from the Bible to support a sinful act. You unfriend them and sigh with relief.
What about your neighbor’s daughter, who has no interest in traditionally feminine activities and feels guilty for wishing she could be “one of the boys”? She sees that it is her parent’s post and believes they must be right - because parents are always supposed to be right when you’re young.
Or maybe your neighbor is a teacher and discusses similar ideas in the classroom to kids and other teachers who don’t know how to approach the topic. They want to say something but they don’t know how to start the conversation, what to say, or what to do without simply insulting the person.
You may not be 110% educated in the subject, but who is supposed to say something? When was the last time you heard someone say something you disagreed with and, rather than tweet about it or whisper to a friend, you actually confronted them?
This isn't suggesting you become a Facebook savior or any relevant role, but what’s the worst that can happen if you voice your opinion in a comment? Using the word “worst” loosely because people can be inconsiderably harsh sometimes. Educate them the best to your ability and you can assure yourself that someone else will hop aboard and support your defiance.
So, here are some tips and examples on how to communicate with narrow-minded people - whether they’re old teachers, extended family, or just a high school friend that you can’t bring yourself to unfriend. At least try to talk to them before you block them.
1. Be sincere
This may sound weird considering someone could be spewing hate about minorities or women’s rights, but no one wants to be flat out told they’re wrong. If it helps, type it as if you were explaining it to a middle schooler - someone who knows the “what" but not the “why”.
2. Facts are not as helpful as you think
You may be tempted to use statistics, but ever since the term “fake news” erupted, people are hesitant to trust any website or organization. If you respond with numbers of some sort (i.e.“Actually, Jim, immigrants can herald from countries other than Mexico. Only x% of immigrants are from Mexico, compared to…”), they may be quick to find flaws in the stats itself (“but they’re the ones who are taking all our jobs!”) or question where you got the stats from (“that organization clearly hates America”). If you feel numbers are best, try to use numbers from federal agencies, such as the FDA or NIMH.
3. Personal insults are a hard 'no'
When people feel like they are losing an argument, they’ll go for an ad hominem - meaning they’ll resort to personal attacks. If their response is something along the lines of “you women know nothing” or “you are just picking a fight for no reason”, that typically means they have no interest in changing their minds. On the other hand, they may resort to non sequitur, where the conclusion doesn’t follow the argument (“You either support America or you’re a democrat”).
Please, for the love of God, don’t add insult to injury (literally). It may seem like a good time to mention that at least you never [insert embarrassing/disgusting/horrifying tale that the other person starred in], but don’t. That kind of stooping gives off a bad vibe strong enough to leave you feeling defeated for days. It’s honestly a lose-lose situation - you still don’t change someone’s mind AND you might feel awful about mean words you said later. Not to mention, once insults start flying, there’s no hope for an end to the conversation until the original poster feels like they’ve won.
Also, do you really wanna be that person who publicly insults someone’s hairline on a Facebook post that was originally about Nike?
In a world where friendships can be made or broken via the power of social media, be the person who attempts to maintain and educate friends instead of simply cutting them out.
So why does any of this matter? In a world where friendships can be made or broken via the power of social media, be the person who attempts to maintain and educate friends instead of simply cutting them out. You never know who’s in harm’s way of their toxic mindset (or ignorance). If you don’t call them out, who will? But keep an open mind, be kind, and remember the point is to educate, not humiliate.