Yes, I have a blacklist. Can you guess who’s on it?

By | June 3rd, 2014

It started with a seemingly harmless question left on my personal Facebook page.

A few weeks ago, a second-rate aviation blogger with a long history of depositing negative remarks on my sites – someone I’d never met in person – made an offhanded comment about one of my children.

As my fingers touched the keyboard to answer, I paused.

I wondered: Is that a real question, or something that’s just meant to provoke me? Why am I bothering to respond?

Why is this person even a “friend” on Facebook?

Then I remembered a recent conversation with another writer, who admitted to blocking one of his harshest critics. He said he had no regrets.

And so I tried it. I unfriended, and then blocked the blogger.

It felt good.

And that was the start of my blacklist.

I’m telling you about the list now because, when it comes to the online discussion, what we say is often as important as how we say it. Manners matter. Good manners matter. Frankly, I shouldn’t need to have a blacklist, and neither should you.

I should probably start by defining my terms. By “blacklist” I mean a select group of people who are blocked from commenting on my site or communicating with me via social media, such as Facebook or Twitter.

The ban isn’t universal across every social network, which is to say, someone might be blocked on my personal Facebook page but still have access to my “fan” page, Twitter, and be allowed to comment on my site.

So why a blacklist?

Well, I’ve been online almost since there’s been an online to be on, and I’ve always believed that you should keep the channels open at all costs – and that’s especially true in my line of work as a consumer advocate. I’ve always respected those on the company side, and it’s almost always a two-way street. Lose the respect, and you can’t do your job.

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But I’ve also believed that good manners are important and have done my best to ignore so-called “trolls” who make angry comments designed to provoke an online mudslinging fest.

In the case of my first blacklist subject, I’d found a troll in my own back yard, spewing inappropriate comments about my kids.

That was an easy one.

Then I started reviewing all of my Facebook “friends” and applying the same litmus test. None of them had come after my children, but some had made derogatory comments about my cats (perhaps just as bad) or below-the-belt remarks about my advocacy work.

I blacklisted them, too.

If there was one common thread in all of my reasons for blocking and unfriending them, it was this: at the end of the day, these so-called “friends” were toxic. Their comments didn’t add anything to the discussion. Instead, they dragged everyone into the mud with their negative comments, which were often disguised as a “fact-based” challenge to a story or commentary.

But the net effect was always the same. It left readers feeling guilty for wanting basic customer service from a company, and that was intolerable.

The toxic “friends” had to go.

One of the most personally satisfying actions was blocking Twitter followers with long histories of vile comments, delivered in 140 characters or less.

There’s the loyalty-program fanboy who liked dishing out epithets from his phone – blocked! There’s the travel industry “consultant” with a never-ending string of passive-aggressive remarks – blocked! There’s another airline blogger whose site is a cesspool of negative comments about my consumer advocacy practice – blocked!

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It’s quite a list.

(I’m not alone. Quite by chance, I recently discovered that I’d also been blocked by a well-known promoter of airline loyalty programs. No surprise there.)

I don’t keep a formal list of blockees. You wouldn’t even know you’re on the list unless you tried to leave a comment or tag me in a post, only to find out that you can’t.

Am I overreacting? Not for a minute. While I can tolerate the negativity – and have for many years – these users do far more damage by spreading their toxins into a healthy discussion. I can’t permit that. Never mind that they keep me from doing my job as an advocate.

Also, I believe the ability to participate in a discussion, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or this site, is a privilege. And since I can control who talks and who doesn’t, I am.

Blacklists shouldn’t be necessary. If everyone observed the same rules of engagement online as they did offline, it would fix 99 percent of the problem. But for some reason – maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe their parents just forgot to teach them manners – some folks think they can troll the Internet without consequences.

Well, there are consequences.

The takeaway for you is simple: Manners are important – maybe even more important online, where everything you write is stored indefinitely for employers, friends and relatives to see. I see too many emails to companies where the basics, like the “pleases” and “thank-yous” are omitted in favor of threats and epithets.

If you’re being ignored by a company, maybe it’s because you forgot your manners. Maybe you’re being blocked.

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And if a consumer advocate is blacklisting you, maybe you need to go back to etiquette school.

Should I have a blacklist?

View Results

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  • It really depends. There are unethical people/organizations that think any critique/challenge is harassment/negative/inappropriate. They lobby for the person to be banned. I think the key is the following: Is the commenter raising a fact based statement that is true, or a name calling personal attack? Do they respond with hyperbole? Do they make false accusations? Does the person keep raising the same issue over and over and over again? How they argue is also important. Do they attempt to gas-light, bring up red herring arguments, utilize half-truths, attempt to hide relevant facts? Do they attempt to win arguments by shouting down the other side, or prevent the other side from giving input?
    There is also a difference between personal and professional contacts. My personal contact list is significantly smaller than my public one.
    If someone does make some sort of strange question or statement, there is always the wonderful “could you clarify?” to see what’s really going on. An honest person will attempt to get to the point by providing more details on their thought process. A dishonest person will try to make it look like you are making an unreasonable request by asking for clarification. They will make it look like you are attempting to avoid the question.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Personal attacks, especially about one’s kids, have no place in a civilized conversation. If someone chooses not to comport himself or herself like an adult, by all means ban them.

    Spirited debate is to be encouraged, churlish behavior may be properly condemned.

  • Blackadar

    There’s a big difference between someone with critical advice and someone who is trolling. The first may not agree with you, but can provide a reasoned response and a different VALID viewpoint that helps promote discussion. The latter simply wants to derail the discussion with personal remarks, one line “crap-posts” and harping on mistakes that aren’t relevant to the discussion. You’re better off banning these keyboard jockeys and sending them elsewhere to spew their bile.

  • John Baker

    The phrase I always tend to remember … We can disagree without being disagreeable.

  • VoR61

    Very well put, Chris. Decorum is vital to productive discussion.

  • DChamp56

    As long as the blacklist is for misbehavior, not just for people who may not agree with you. After all, nobody’s right 100% of the time, and constructive criticism is a good thing when used properly. Anyone however, who uses your children in their tirade, should be banished instantly.


    Attacking people not relevant to the conversation is intolerable and I agree with banning them. People who rely on those remarks often have nothing concrete to say about the topic at hand and rely on personal attacks to distract from that. We have all seen those attacks and many of us have either experienced it or know someone that has. And most of us are intelligent enough to know the difference between a personal attack and comments–even those that indulge in those attacks. As long as that is why people are banned then that is good.

  • Cheri Head

    Life is too short to spend even a moment dealing with hateful people who feel free to sit behind their computers and post mean, obnoxious and personal comments. I too have blocked many people for similar reasons. It shouldn’t be necessary, but it is. And it makes life online so much better. Good for you.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Don’t waste your energy for the negative people (I call them the irrecuperables). We can’t do nothing about it. Some just want attention by bitching, and most of the time nothing to do with the real subject or issue, and they think it’s cute.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    It’s your site. You pay the bills, You control the content. No one should include your kids or cats in their negative comments about your work. Sheesh.

    I’m glad that you’re taking the time to distinguish genuine disagreement from personal attacks. Otherwise, I’d never be “free” to comment. :)

  • Nikki

    Good for you, Chris. Those of us who have been online along with you, trust that you can make the distinction between a troll and someone offering the proverbial “devils advocate” side of an issue. The mods and regulars here know the difference, too.

    But, your kids? – that’s in the “oh HELL no” category, whether it’s online or off.

  • Stereoknob

    No one else is policing the internet so you have to police your forum yourself. It’s the right move. Too many sleezoids out there.

    Also going after the kids is a really low blow. That’s never acceptable.

  • lin_1945

    Necessary to maintain quality. Appreciate your sharing. In any case, ones’ children are off-limits. Keep up the good work. Those needing you to advocate for them don’t deserve the trash comments.

  • ORguest

    We all encounter people in our lives who gain pleasure from complaining, finding fault and generally looking for things to be unhappy about. Occasionally, we all have gripes, but some folks have turned them into a hobby. They’ll drain the joy out of you and muddy the conversational waters – block ’em. As for the kids, even the mob has rules about family. Good riddance to bad energy.

  • commentfromme

    It feels soooooo good to have a blocklist. It helps take back your universe, your self esteem and your power. Kudos to you ! I did it and it was wonderful.

  • emanon256

    Go for it. No one needs toxic people. Good for you. Sadly I had to block a cousin. She is a distant cousin, but was just too toxic. Most of the family has done the same.

  • Amy K

    You will get no arguments from me! My hubs says the Internet is a huge blank wall and everyone has a can of spray paint. LOL. Well, some people are going to paint the Mona Lisa with their can, while some are going to spray obscenities on the wall, themselves and each other — when they’re not smearing excrement on the same, that is.
    You own your particular portion of the wall, and you don’t want excrement on it. I don’t blame you. Constant re-painting is tiring. :)

  • TonyA_says

    There are sick people everywhere, especially in social media since there is nothing to stop them from displaying their misplaced anger.

  • ploughmud

    I can’t believe someone would say something nasty about your children or pets..!!! definitely banish them!!

    I am also struggling with this same issue. I have Facebook “friends” that continue to post many political comments, running dialogs during sports games usually 20 or more posts, (I do not watch sport except the Olympics), two that post game stuff, another couple that post endless amounts of pics (not of themselves) with poems and sayings. Can I get rid of these people or not. I thought Facebook was to post interesting activities and pics going on in your life. None of this dribble has anything to do with life. Will they be mad if I un-friend them or should I care?

  • Mike

    I voted no only because it seemed that you were casting your net to wide. People who involve you or your family personally or are rude and vulgar should be banned. I’m not so sure about those who differ on whether you should advocate for certain people. Asking too often for mercy hardens those making the decisions. I’d only advocate where the rules are clear and say no in extra-ordinary circumstances such as where a spam filter ate a confirmation of a wrong date reservation and it was not found until after the 24 hours ran.

  • DonTheGeek

    I’m running into the same issue with the endless poems and such. But how do you unfriend your sister, mother, cousin, or even your kid. Whatever comes after Facebook should have the ability to tag a post as a certain category (political, religious, sports) and give us the ability to ignore all posts of a certain flavor.

    And yes, if you unfriend family, you will pay for it over and over and over again.

  • Miami510

    Some experiences in life are hurtful, and wise people attempt to learn from the unfortunate (and fortunate) experiences of others. That, for me, is what this Website is all about. Bravo Elliott for not allowing these exchanges to degrade into pettiness and rancor.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Regardless of anything else, attacking someone’s children is simply over the line. Boom…ban ’em.

    I have had to unfriend people on Facebook because their online behavior is intolerable. The bizarre thing is that some of these people are the nicest folks you could ever meet in person, and wouldn’t dream of spewing such crap face-to-face! But get them behind a keyboard and they turn into hostile, toxic trolls.

    Reminds me of that old cartoon of Goofy, Mr. Nice Guy on the street, who turns into a raging maniac behind the wheel.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yes, you should have a blacklist. People are jackasses on the internet.
    I know.
    We can smell our own.

    BTW: Going after someone’s kids? That’s a new low.

  • Charlie

    Good for you!

  • Annie M

    Everyone should have a blacklist. People are too free to just spew their venom because they can stay anonymous online. They think hiding behind an online name gives them the right to say whatever they want, regardless of anyone else’s thoughts or feelings. When someone brings your kids into the conversation, all bets are off and you absolutely did the right thing. I’ve also unfriended people due to the things they post – political posts especially I can’t stand. That’s why the unfriend button is there.

    It is just like firing an untolerable client – we do it when we have to.

  • Extramail

    I think there is a general lack of civility both on and off the net. I see it in grocery stores, I see it when driving. I see it at the airport and I’ve even seen it in the library. The Internet just gives some people a layer of anonymity that adds to their feeling of power. But, to be fair, the Internet also doesn’t allow for voice inflection and body language. It’s sad that people are surprised when they receive a nicety such as, “no, you go first”. Even a simple “please” and ” thank you” can go a long way in today’s society.

  • Dutchess

    Your blog your rules but rude comments about your kids? That’s beyond low.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Turn them into “Acquaintances” and their posts won’t be part of your automatic feed. You have to click on the “Acquaintances” on the sidebar to see their posts. You can also block Games, but you’ll see all the Games posts when you click on a category, like “Family”

  • JH

    I think the anonymity of this discussion seems to invite the mannerless. I have a friend who tunes in now and then to a precious metals message board and he ha sent me examples of raging idiots talking about the President’s birth certificate fraud, or whatever. They get so far afield you would not know the real topic, gold and silver prices. I think blacklisting and blocking will maintain this exchange. It can be fun to go off topic now and then. But perhaps a mannerly way of doing it will preserve this necessary exchange medium.

  • DesignIt

    I like this post x1000!

  • DesignIt

    On Facebook, you have the option to unfollow a person without unfriending them. Their posts won’t appear on your newsfeed, but you can still look at their page, and they yours. There’s no notification if you unfollow, and subsequently re-follow a person.

  • LFH0

    Absolutely. Argue away on the substance of an issue, even call out errors in the another person’s reasoning, but there’s no cause to engage in an irrelevant personal attack that simply hurts (and which might in person constitute “fighting words” leading to unnecessary physical attack). I think, however, that some people consider arguing an attack on their person, and are unable to separate their intellect from their emotion. Indeed, I suspect that many people believe that having an argument is simply “bad.” I suspect that these issues arise largely as a result of some people not being able to make the separation.

  • Zod

    How does the saying go? Don’t argue with a stupid person. They’ll only drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience…It’s best to just ignore people that would drag you down!

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Why should anyone have a blacklist? Life is too short to deal with dysfunctional things, that’s why.

  • Nikki

    I’ve employed both FB Purity and Social Fixer to assist me with these things… I’ve been able to keep certain people on but not see the pics and not-part-of-daily-life crap they post. (especially political posts, and graphic animal-abuse pics.) I can also block certain pics and sites according to keywords I put in. Life has been so much easier since then.

  • ploughmud

    That is a great idea..FB Purity and Social Fixer…where is it and how does it work..

  • Mel65

    Are we related? I think we have the same friends and family! I finally “unfollow”ed a bunch of them, put some in the acquaintances category and put a few on the restricted list. They don’t even know that they’re on those lists, but ahhhhhh the peace and quiet of not being asked to “LIKE IF YOU LOVE YOUR XYZ” etc… 20 times a day! :)

  • Mel65

    “Familiarity breeds contempt” but I like to add, anonymity breeds contemptible behavior.


    Unfollow them rather than unfriend them. Unfollowing takes them out of your feed. I have done this and just check on their periodically to see if they actually post anything of note.

  • Nikki

    You can get them at their respective names, dot com. They are great at keeping up with Facebook’s constant changes to the “user experience”. *eyeroll*

    Both are free with minimal requests for donations – – – but the excellent work both of them do, are well worth the donation, if you’re able to do it. If not, they’re not worried about it. =)

    Edited: Sorry Chris, forgot about the limitations on URLs!

  • dave3029

    Is there some hidden message that the votes were cut off after “666” had been reached? ;-)

  • The poll is still open. We’re at 772 votes.

  • Travelnut

    I can’t find “Acquaintances” on the sidebar. Maybe when I get home tonight I can find something on Google.

    Some games autopost to your wall and your friends that play the games may not even realize it’s happening. There’s a little arrow in the upper right hand corner of the posts; click there and you should be able to say you don’t want to see posts about that game anymore.

    I think long and hard about unfriending people, and it takes a lot for me to finally pull the trigger. If they just post political and religious rants, I will unfollow them but not unfriend them. If they are being disagreeable or nasty to me, that’s when I unfriend. Unfollowing keeps me from seeing the crap certain people post, but I didn’t know until this week that you could do the opposite – “hide” yourself so that they don’t see anything that you post, but not actually unfriend them. It’s in Privacy Shortcuts, “Who can see my stuff?”, “Who can see my future posts?”, “Custom”, “Don’t share with…” and type in the person’s name. This keeps me from unfriending people but prevents them liking and commenting on every single thing, leaving weird comments, etc. Life is too short to put up with that kind of stuff.

  • Travelnut

    I unfriended my niece and nephew. They darn well deserved it too. They’ve since refriended me and things are better.

  • Travelnut

    And several pictures of their kids, every. single. day.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    We must have friends in common


  • Cam

    Block, or don’t, whomever you like. Perhaps you didn’t need to write an article about it.

  • dave3029

    Weird. When I pulled the article up and read it, the option to vote was not there, just the results of the 666 prior votes.

  • Maureen Skaar

    I am online for work and fun. I hit facebook when I run dry and need relief with folks I enjoy. a few times I have followed links and gone to a site and left my opinion. its always the truth as I see it. these are usually on news stories. and at times, my opinion gets a personal attack for me. there are some pretty mean closet haters out there who assume a lot about someone they do not know and in what tone you would use if you were speaking the words out loud. not having the tonal context can cause misinterpretations of what you are saying though some people are just plain nasty . ..I don’t blame you for blocking.

  • naoma


  • naoma


  • norm

    This is a real pet peeve of mine. The internet seems to have become a haven for trolls, people who in person wouldn’t think of saying some of the things they tap into their computers, who were probably raised with the same principals most of us were taught from a very early age, all of a sudden feel it is their God given right to be the most obnoxious jerks possible because they can hide behind the “anonymity” of the internet. Perhaps that is why the only time I will take the time to comment on something is when it really hits home with me. I enjoy Mr. Elliott’s site and for the most part enjoy the comments on the different stories he writes about. For some reason most of the folks who comment here seem quite a bit more civilized than most. I agree with Mr. Elliott, if you cannot be civilized, if you are more interested in trolling and creating chaos than real discussion, blocking you is my vote as well.

  • As someone who works in digital media, I’ve experienced this on behalf of the brand. There are far too many users that use social media as a means to shame and bully people/organizations in ways that wouldn’t be socially acceptable offline. Having the ability to defend yourself is absolutely needed and blacklisting or blocking shouldn’t ever come with guilt.

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