A few people objected to this post when we first ran it a year ago, then came to regret their decision. So for their sake we’re putting it up again, in a new and updated form, in the interests of civilised and productive discourse about Scottish politics.
It’s the most constructive contribution we can think of to make Twitter a less toxic place over the next 12 months. It’s our block list.
The Herald columnist Iain Macwhirter had some wise words to say on the subject of social media on New Year’s Day this year:
The month before, though, he’d been even more to the point. These passages are from a column on 6 December 2015:
That last line is key, because the fact of the matter is that Macwhirter’s first wish is never going to come true. It’s simply far too profitable for both crybaby politicians and scandal-hungry hacks to blow random Twitter and Facebook comments vastly out of proportion, knowing full well that doing so makes the problem worse.
(Because the “abused victims” get to stoke up their fake outrage in the belief it’ll bring them political gain – which invariably fails to materialise, making them angrier still – and the “culprits” are resentful of the distortions and one-sided coverage, leaving both sides more bitterly polarised than they were before.)
The only thing that will foil the media’s goal of filling easy column inches with lurid tales of vile cybernats and Corbynites – and stop everyone getting angrier and angrier the longer they stay on Twitter – is to reduce the supply at source. And the only way of achieving that is if intelligent people stop arguing with morons.
Everyone on this site who uses social media will be well aware of a slew of figures on the opposing side with whom there is no point whatsoever in attempting to have a debate, so we won’t dignify them here by listing them. No amount of persuasion or evidence will change their minds – inconvenient facts are ignored, arguments are bodyswerved with semantic hairsplitting, hours and hours are wasted with nothing to show for it but more anger and bitterness.
We all know how it works. So why not stop?
As by far the most popular and successful non-party pro-independence voice on the internet, Wings Over Scotland is a bullet magnet for raging BritNats. We’re on Twitter all day every day, and if there’s a furious Yoon zoomer anywhere you can guarantee that at some point they’ve sent abuse in our direction.
So because we’d never get anything done if we got drawn into slanging matches with every God-Save-The-Queening numpty in the land, we have a hair-trigger blocking policy, and the main criterion is stupidity. Nobody is blocked for being a Unionist, only for being a troll or an idiot.
(A good few Yes supporters fall into the latter category and are also included. In our view you’re better off without them, but if you disagree then note that taking the steps we’re about to outline will NOT block anyone you currently follow.)
Our blocklist is thousands strong, and it massively streamlines and enhances the Twitter experience, not to mention our general quality of life. And if that sounds like a good thing, it can enhance yours too.
We call it The Official Wings Over Scotland Universal Twitter Enhancer, but it’s really an app called Block Together.
If you click the above link, it’ll take you to a page that looks like this:
If you click on the “Block All and Subscribe” button on that page, Twitter will then block all the accounts on the list for you, except any that you’re already following.
(You may also have to authorise Block Together to access your Twitter account. It can’t read your private data and it won’t post any tweets for you.)
It will also automatically block any accounts that we might subsequently block (again, unless you’re already following them, in which case they WON’T be blocked). That’s a default setting of the app that we can’t change, but if you don’t want it to happen you can click “Subscriptions” at the top of the page, which will bring up this screen:
…and then click on the X to unsubscribe. You’ll keep blocking the current list, but you won’t automatically block any we add to it subsequently.
(To unsubscribe, you’ll need to wait an hour or two after clicking the “Block All and Subscribe” button, or it won’t have finished the initial blocking process and will cancel it, and you’ll end up blocking nobody.)
They won’t be able to see your tweets, and if they tweet at you you won’t see theirs either. They’ll all be screaming at a soundproof brick wall, you won’t be tempted into pointless fights with them, and you can do something more productive and enjoyable instead, whether it’s going out canvassing for whichever party you support or staying in watching old episodes of Doctor Who on W from before it went rubbish.
The seriously scumbaggy end of the Unionist spectrum really hates the Wings block list, because it makes it a lot harder for them to wind up Yes voters, waste their time and provoke the sort of angry reactions that the papers love to jump on. They huff endlessly about it, and have created numerous web pages and apps bleating about how dreadful it is that people won’t listen to their abusive and destructive ranting.
Blocking is reversible. You can unblock someone again in a single click any time you like. And there’s just a glimmer of a chance that if people who are never going to change their mind (on either side) stop yelling pointlessly and furiously at each other, the entire online tone of Scottish politics could become a bit less poisonous.
It’d upset all the lazy hacks who just go looking for abusive tweets to blow up into “news” stories, of course, but we suspect most of you could probably live with that.
PS Some people don’t like the list. That’s absolutely fine – don’t use it, then. But its purpose is to REDUCE the amount of pointless arguing and anger on the internet, not generate more, so please don’t whinge about it in the comments. Follow your own advice by ignoring this post and walking away.