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A love affair with the block button

By March 29, 2020May 22nd, 2020No Comments

In a tired relationship with Facebook, Taryn de Vere goes in search of a new place to hang her hat…

I was going to write about my love affair with social media, a treatise of appreciation for the many joys social media has brought to my life. 

But then I checked my Facebook notifications…


I was asked a few weeks ago to write a piece for the Irish Independent on my experience as the mother of a trans child. The article was published today and in my joyful anticipation of seeing my first article in print, I forgot about the inevitable hate-fest that occurs whenever I speak online about parenting a trans child.

Because I arrived to the comments with joy in my heart, they hit me deeply. It felt like I had been stabbed.

“Letting a 5 year old act as a different gender is child abuse and it makes you a joke of a parent.”

 “A proud Mum of a sexual deviant.”

“The whole thing is sick doing that to an already confused child, child abuse.”

There were also a lot of men commenting about how I was an attention seeker. Coincidentally, that’s a remark my abusive ex used to throw at me as well, but I suspect to men like that, any woman writing about her life in a national paper is an attention seeker.

Perhaps it hit me harder because these people are talking about my child. Normally the insults levelled at me online are about me, not my kids. Like most women with an online presence, I’ve developed a hard exterior when it comes to unsolicited male opinions. I imagine it as a vulva shaped cocoon, painted in fire engine red, so shiny and smooth that the shit men fling at me slides right off it. 

I so rarely care what ‘@One_Shot_Paddy’ and his ilk think of me, they can fire away with their angry attempts to belittle me while I wield the block button like a witch’s broom and shoo those pesky little bastards out of my vulva-shaped online home. Be gone!

Block functions have made my online life immeasurably better. All my online life is now measured in BB (Before Block) and AB (After Block). BB time was pretty awful, I was wading through men’s impotent rage, trying to figure out how to survive in online spaces. I was even scared to use the block button. Now I am signed up to a load of block lists and it’s made my experience online so much more joyful.

I read a book a few years ago that said that for every bad experience we have, we need five positive things to happen to make up for it. I’ve used this ever since as a parenting tactic, if one of my kids is a douche to their sibling they have to make a list of five things they’re going to do to make it up. In the context of social media that means you need a lot of nice interactions to make up for all the crappy ones.

I have a Big Love for Twitter. I moved there when I was growing weary of Facebook’s overt capitalism and controlling ways. I whored myself about a bit first, trying Insta, Tumblr and the like, before I hit upon Twitter. If Facebook is the creepy married businessman you once met at a networking event who comments on all your posts, Twitter is experts in everything feeding you their knowledge in bite-sized chunks. 

Twitter is strangers making me care about shit I didn’t know I needed to care about. Where Facebook was trying to sell or steal my data, Twitter (or more accurately, @Tupp_Ed) made me care about data protection. Twitter made me smarter.

Plus, Twitter is full of strangers, and I adore strangers. I love strangers so much that when I get married, (every year or so),  I only invite strangers to my weddings. Where Facebook was full of people I actually knew, (ugh!), Twitter was full to the brim with millions of shiny new people. And my love affair with strangers is somewhat mutual. Strangers, it appears, like me too. Some of them even turned into friends, but not the kind of friends I ever had to spend time with in real life, which is perfect for me on lots of levels. 

I’m not a neuro-typical person and I can struggle to “human” successfully with other people. So being able to engage with people on my own terms, in writing only; works beautifully for me. My direct and to the point commentary doesn’t come across as abrupt or rude online like it does in real life. My forthrightness becomes a virtue in online spaces. Social media plays to my strengths – strengths that all my life I considered a weakness. 

Aside from all of that, social media was the perfect vehicle for connecting with other people, when I was sad, scared, alone or just needing to know there are other humans in the world than my kids. I’ve lived in Donegal for over 16 years and it’s geographically remote and disconnected from the rest of the country.

Social media allowed me to participate in national conversations, about marriage equality, #Repeal, the housing crisis and more. I didn’t have to be in Dublin, Cork, Belfast or Galway to make a difference. Social media made me a better, and more active citizen (even though I’m not technically a citizen, yet!).

So, while there will always be dudes who are looking for opportunities to take women down a peg or two, there are also people willing to lift you up when you’re feeling down, send you a lovely card in the post, tell you how much they appreciate you, send you a funny gif, or suggest you for Follow Friday – that’s five things isn’t it?

Main photo from Unsplash


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