BLOCKED! On all the platforms!
"I now realize that my habit of blocking “toxic” people has been a huge mistake." Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
I have another great guest post to share today, from Phoebe Cohen. It’s timely as heck. Here’s Phoebe:
by Phoebe Cohen
“You need to take your son home.”
It was 2017. A friend of mine had invited my 5-year-old son to her child’s 6th birthday pool party. The kids were buzzed on frosting and sugar. They had already opened all the presents and were running around the backyard in their bathing suits, smacking each other with pool noodles.
I was chatting with the other moms, and enjoying the leftover cake. My friend walked towards me rubbing her forehead: “Phoebe, you need to take your son home. He is making way too much noise.”
I was surprised. My son may be noisy but his yells were indistinguishable from the other eight or nine kids. Plus we were outside anyway.
“Um, sure,” I said. My friend avoided eye contact as I walked over to the kids. My son looked confused as I told him to grab his towel. “It’s time to go home.”
My friend continued to avoid eye contact as my son and I did a sort of “Walk of Shame” out of her back yard.
I felt a surge of rage. How dare my friend single out my son for exclusion?!! The party wasn’t over. The children had resumed the pool noodle fight. The moms had politely waved goodbye and were back to talking with each other.
My son and I were alone.
I was acutely aware that my son was the only child with autism at the party. I know that his sudden hand-flapping movements and echoing language can be disconcerting to people. So what, though? How dare my friend single out my son just because he was disabled?
As we walked past the “Hate has no home here” sign in my friend’s front yard and headed towards the car, I saw how sad my son was to be leaving the party early. My internal fury reached supernova status.
My friend was now blocked! BLOCKED! On all the damn platforms!
Our friendship was OVER!
I instantly felt relief. I was proud of myself at that moment. I was getting rid of toxic people in my life AND teaching my son to not tolerate people who treated him as less than equal.
Years later, however, I now realize that my habit of blocking “toxic” people has been a huge mistake.
After I blocked my friend, I started to see just how so many of my relationships had become toxic, both in my life and online. So many people had malignant narcissistic tendencies. And yes, I was fairly sure I knew what “malignant narcissist” meant.
Basically, if you made me feel stupid or argued with me about politics or disagreed with me on health advice or simply “trauma dumped” too much, you were probably toxic with some narcissistic tendencies, and you got blocked on my social media.
Certainly you never received so much as a phone call from me again!
I blocked toxic person after toxic person. Oddly, however, despite cutting all these toxic people out of my life, I didn’t seem to get any peace of mind. On the contrary, the more I cut ties with former friends, the more ornery, angry and judgmental I got. I was irritable. I was anxious, and I was convinced that I probably had to block more people if I wanted to feel calm.
I demanded purity from everyone, and I screamed for empathy from the same people when it came to my own character flaws.
The more toxic people I cut from my life, the more toxic I became.
I don’t know when I finally realized how ridiculous I had become. I was arguing online with some old high school friends about something appallingly stupid. It was “Are the Gringotts goblins in ‘Harry Potter’ anti-Semitic?” level of dumb, and yet I found myself getting angry.
Everyone in the comment thread was disagreeing with me and I couldn’t take it anymore. I reached for the “block” button… and stopped. What the hell was I doing?
I was treating old friends like they were Twitter trolls. For God’s sake, none of this was worth ending relationships.
I have now realized that cutting “toxic people” out of my life was doing immense damage to my mental health. I had let my anger isolate me and my son. After I blocked my friend following the pool party incident my son never played with her child again.
Sarah Schulman in her 2017 book, Conflict is not Abuse, asks:
“Why would a person rather have an enemy than a conversation? Why would they rather see themselves as harassed and transgressed instead of have a conversation that could reveal them as an equal participant in creating conflict?”
Her questions point out the absurdity of my attitude when I resolved to cut “toxic” people out of my life. Why had I blocked my friend without even a conversation with her to resolve the issue? Why did I prefer to sacrifice my friendship so that my victimhood status remained unblemished? Why didn’t I want to keep the friendship even if that meant acknowledging that maybe my son had perhaps been a little loud at the party?
I now have a strict “no block” policy in place when it comes to my friends. I am pushing myself towards more real life face-to-face interactions instead of Facebook or Twitter arguments. I am trying to re-strengthen old friendships that I have been neglecting and—most importantly perhaps—I am realizing that people disagreeing with me is not abuse. Arguing is not abuse. Being criticized is not abuse.
Being imperfect humans is not the same as being toxic. It is time we all recognize this before we wither in our self-inflicted loneliness.
7 other things worth knowing today
Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is set to become Britain’s next prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership race Monday—and now faces the huge task of stabilizing the party and country at a time of economic and political turbulence. Sunak will be Britain’s first leader of color, and the nation’s third leader just this year. He's also one of the wealthiest people in Britain, so this will be the first time in history that the residents of Downing Street are richer than those of Buckingham Palace. (AP, WashPost)
NBC News poll finds sky-high interest and polarization ahead of midterms: 80% of Democrats and Republicans believe the political opposition poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it. (NBC News)
Harvard will defend its race-conscious admissions program at the Supreme Court this month, but another case shows how the university's failure to submit an insurance claim in the case on time could cost it $15 million. A filing in the case also disclosed that Harvard's costs legal fees and expenses in the matter have already topped $27 million. (NY Times)
How to stop stewing about something you've taken (a little too) personally, based on interviews with two psychologists. (NPR)
A Michigan teenager pleaded guilty to terrorism and first-degree murder in a school shooting that killed four students and may be called to testify against his parents, who've been jailed on manslaughter charges for their alleged role in the tragedy. The prosecutor's office said no deals were made ahead of Monday's plea. A first-degree murder conviction typically brings an automatic life prison sentence in Michigan, but teenagers are entitled to a hearing where their lawyer can argue for a shorter term and an opportunity for parole. (Yahoo News)
Amazon bought Whole Foods five years ago for $13.7 billion. Here’s what’s changed at the high-end grocer. (CNBC)
Dietrich Mateschitz, who became Austria’s richest man peddling Red Bull to the masses and harnessing the popularity of the energy drink to build a sports-marketing empire spanning Formula 1, soccer and mountain biking, has died. He was 78. (Bloomberg)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. Thanks to Pheobe for letting me share this; you can find more of her work here. See you in the comments!