There’s a particular kind of behavior I’ve noticed over the last couple years that manifests itself in e-celebs, and it essentially goes like this: the e-celeb says something that prompts an interaction, possibly the first interaction the individual asking the question or making the comment has ever had with said e-celeb, and the individual is immediately blocked.
I recently made the public assertion that I had been blocked by “almost all” of the e-celebs I’ve interacted with, but on reflection, that’s not true. It’s actually completely wrong and the more I think about it the more I realize how many positive interactions I’ve had vs negative. But in the moment I was thinking about just those negative interactions because that was the subject at hand.
For example, Mark Kern has always been cool, both to me on the handful of times I talked to him and to everyone else. Tom Nichols, for all he’s an enormous douchebag, didn’t block me for calling him out about his arrogance toward rural people, and I respect his willingness to mix it up with the crowd. I’ve had very positive interactions with various veteran semi-e-celebs. OTOH, Razorfist blocked me for talking to someone else in a comment thread, because I expressed exasperation with Razorfist’s tendency to call popular media properties ripoffs based on weak evidence. If you’ve followed the guy at all, you know what I mean. There were a couple other insta-blocks by e-celebs whose names I can’t recall precisely enough to mention them. And most recently, Vox Day publicly smeared me by pigeonholing me as an obsessive butthurt gamma self-appointed fact-policeman over a single imprecise paragraph in a comment, despite having been around his blog for years without issue. That escalated into him deleting another comment and misrepresenting it when I angrily defended myself against the insult, alluded to its kafkatrap nature, and pointed out I had been around since at least 2016 and nobody had ever pinned the gamma label on me before.
That last interaction is what clued me in to what was going on.
Vox clearly did not know who I was—I’d changed my Blogger name since 2016 and had been commenting much less frequently than I used to—because if he had, he could not have reasonably labeled me the way he did. I don’t mean I’m obviously special and he would recognize that or anything silly like that. It’s just there’s far too much evidence of me not acting like a gamma for the slur to hold up. As I alluded to in the comment he deleted from his blog, it’s like accusing a former infantryman who was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and who saw a fair amount of combat of being a coward. He knows he’s not a coward. Everyone else knows he’s not a coward. You can’t then relabel him a coward because of a single comment he made. If you’re intellectually honest at all, you have to stop to ask if maybe he misspoke or maybe you misunderstood him.
So here’s my theory: the block-happy e-celebs don’t actually view the people they don’t know as individuals. They view the people of the world in two blocs: the group made up of individuals whose names they recognize and have at least some feelings about, good or bad; and the faceless mass of humanity that makes up everyone else. The second bloc is just a nebulous other, and the actions of one other are attributed to all. So when you ask the wrong innocent question as an other, when you express dissent or do anything else that annoys them when they don’t know who you are, such e-celebs don’t stop to ask what your intentions are or if maybe you’re someone they should listen to. They assume they already know that your intentions are nefarious, that you’re just a nitpicking asshole timewaster, that you’re a meltdown waiting to happen, and it’s better to just remove you from the equation now. After all, that’s what the other always does.
Except, of course, the vast majority of the people in the other are not like that at all, and acting as if they are makes you look like a fucking nutcase. Of course people are going to react negatively to you if, the very first time they ask a question, you attack them or block them. But the problem isn’t with those individuals, it’s with you. You can’t handle the attention of large numbers of people. You’re demanding that everyone else conform to your expectations instead of accepting reality as it is and putting up the necessary shields to avoid the inanity of the masses. And that’s just crazy.
I’m not blaming the e-celebs who block people willy-nilly for their visceral reaction to the masses. I think it’s a fairly natural one, though obviously it’s not universal*. Humans aren’t designed to interact with thousands of different people; we’re designed to function in small, close-knit tribal groups.
What I will blame them for is wanting to have their cake and eat it too.
If you open yourself up to the masses, then demand everyone else follow your rules even if they don’t know what the rules are and punish them by cutting them off before they can even get their feet under them, you’re the problem, not them. And you’re just fucking yourself over by doing it, because you’re turning away customers**. Failing to answer a question or ignoring a comment is perfectly understandable when you’re a big name. Hardly anybody will attack you for doing so, because they know you get tons of questions and comments. But blocking people over nothing? They’re going to remember that as a childish overreaction, and they’ll be reminded of it every time someone retweets you and they can’t see the content.
As far as actually attacking people verbally over minuscule unintentional offenses… Well, expecting people to just accept abuse because you’re a big shot and they’re nobodies is crazy, and using their negative reaction to your abuse as proof that they deserve to be abused is downright psychopathic.
This post isn’t just about other people, by the way, because I’m confident I would fall into the block-happy group myself if I had enough people talking to me and if blocking was the only option available. But it isn’t. If that’s the kind of personality you have, you’re better off recognizing reality and using different tools to manage your interactions than just cutting people off willy-nilly or, worse, openly attacking them over a single comment in punishment for the accumulated sins of the other.
*Perhaps it is near-universal and other people just have more self-control. Hard to say. I’m not a mind-reader.
**Or you might attack the wrong person and lose your NASA internship like that nutter did when they attacked Homer Hickam last year for daring to suggest the intern-in-waiting tone down their language in public when discussing NASA.