illustration of a two feathers making an X
03 January 2024

Bloktoberfest— Some anticlimactic thoughts on blocking

Note: this post is what I consider a note— some light musing that may or may not have a conclusion and may or may not turn into an essay one day.

Oh, Elon Musk. You’re like the Trump of the tech world. Not so much because you both have a thing for divorced white supremacists (you do), but because you both say the quiet part out loud.

Some people on Threads want to make a moral argument for leaving Twitter. That argument goes something like, “If you stay on Twitter, you’re funding white supremacy!” And you know what? That is not entirely untrue. I’m more of a “shame for corporations, grace for people” type of guy these days, but I see the validity. Where folks lose me is on the platform in which that message is spread[1]. Mark Zuckerberg is known to court the occasional replacement theorist himself, you know. But he tends not to repost crime stat screenshots because Zuck isn’t a dumb-dumb. He’s a lot of things, but high on his own supply isn’t one of them. No, Meta’s CEO is much more discrete, if not audacious.

Nevertheless, Musk’s itchy Twitter fingers can provide a fascinating insight into the thoughts of other tech elites. For example, when Twitter doubled down on Blue and did the unthinkable— asked people to pay for verification— Zuck surprisingly followed suit. Today, you can pay $12.99 for a blue check across Meta’s app suite.

In November 2022, Musk laid off half of the Twitter workforce. It was his first order of business. Not to be outdone, Zuck laid off 11,000 Meta employees just five days later. Is Mark Zuckerberg copying Elon Musk? Nah. Not really. It’s just that both think similarly, but their approaches are vastly different. Zuck is a little bit symphony, Musk a little more rock and troll [2].

So, now that we’ve laid the groundwork, are you ready to leap over this chasm with me? Great.

A lot of people are blocking Elno on TwitterX. It’s become a bit of a situation[3]. Not just for his massive ego but because blocking the largest account on the platform means a reduced inability to keep people engaged with his antics. So what did the most divorced man in the world do? He openly considered removing the ability to block people. Instead, he found “muting” accounts a far more attractive option.

Over on Threads, a similar movement is sparking. People aren’t necessarily blocking the king of Hot Boy Summer, per se. But there are growing sentiments that preemptively blocking trolls and notorious agitators is a better strategy than quote-posting them. Big accounts like the wonderfully loud and funny pearlmania500 lead the charge in the “block first, ask questions later” movement.

When we hop over to Mastodon, we see even more blocking. Entire servers with thousands of people have decided it is better to block Threads than put up with the bullshit. Mastodon leaders think that individuals should have the choice to block or not block Threads. However, from my understanding, it’s a choice that leads to confusion about what “blocking” actually does.

This Bloktoberfest across Threads and Mastodon, like on TwitterX, is also a problem. For Musk, he wants to desperately be loved and funny (and honestly, don’t we all). For Zuck, his strategy has always been rage engagement. If you’re on Instagram, you’ve noticed that the carousel of Threads in your feed highlights some of the all-time worst takes. (Or hot chicks, bro. People dig hot chicks).

Why does Zuck care about engagement so much? Because the longer we scroll our feeds, the more ads he can serve.

Suppose the Threads collective decides it’s better to block than engage. In that case, Zuck loses his ability to maximize the most important metric for social media— average time on site[4].

Facebook basically invented the mute button some years ago. And remember that Burger King promotion that gave you a hamburger if you unfriended a few friends? Boy, did Facebook not like that. The Burger King himself issued a public apology on behalf of the meat monarchy.

So it stands that Zuck would find a way around this predilection to block-and-move-on as Musk has openly considered. The question then becomes, what would that something be?

If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear it over on Mastodon or via email. Not so much about my need to touch grass. I have enough of those emails, thank you. And, I know, I know. I have a date with some Kentucky Blue later in the week. I’m more interested in your thoughts on how Zuck could overcome his blocking problem. Or if you think it’s a problem at all.

  1. I make no moral judgments of people who use Meta apps. Many reasons are not immediately apparent why it’s hard for some to leave and never look back. But you can’t take the moral high ground on a road pathed by genocide cultivation. That gets messy, fast. ↩︎

  2. I’m obnoxiously proud of that stupid pun. ↩︎

  3. Wesley and Liz ↩︎

  4. To a lesser extent, Musk understands this too. He’s demonstrated a willingness to bring back to TwitterX the most vial alt-right personalities under the guise of “free speech.” But really, it’s the quote tweets that keep the register ringing. ↩︎


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