The new Twitter badge of honor: #IGotBlocked

As the Justice Department appeals a federal judge’s ruling on President Trump’s ability to block people on Twitter, social media users continue to boast about getting blocked.

The hashtag #IGotBlocked began trending early Thursday on Twitter TWTR, +4.46% with users sharing their tales of being blocked on the social media platform by Trump and others. The hashtag appeared to be inspired by Holly Figueroa O’Reilly’s account to a local news outlet about getting blocked by the President on Twitter last year.

Figueroa O’Reilly was one of the plaintiffs who sued the president for blocking them on Twitter, arguing that doing so amounted to violating their constitutional rights. New York District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald ruled in those plantiffs favor by agreeing that Trump and other public officials cannot block users on social media because doing so would violate the First Amendment. Twitter, at the time, declined to comment on whether it would automatically un-block those who were blocked by Trump.

Trump has since unblocked those who were critical of him, though the Justice Department did appeal the ruling.

Getting blocked by Trump had become something of a badge of honor among politically liberal Twitter users. A screenshot tweeted out by model Chrissy Teigen last July, which showed that she had been blocked from viewing Trump’s tweets, was liked more than 816,000 times and retweeted by more than 210,000 accounts.

Indeed, many Twitter users had come to brag about being blocked by the President, including celebrities such as author Stephen King and Star Trek actress Marina Sirtis. Wired magazine even had a running list of people the president has blocked.

But this concept is not unique to the president. Social media users have giddily posted about this online slight when it comes to a wide range of celebrities, from Bill Cosby to Ryan Seacrest.

There’s a degree of narcissism behind the compulsion to be proud of getting blocked, said Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist based in Beverly Hills, Calif., who works with “regular” people and celebrities alike. In other words, it’s a way of tasting fame, albeit fleetingly.

“Regular folks feel a sense of inflated self-importance, grandeur and power when they feel they can get closer in proximity to a name celebrity,” Walfish said. “Just the fact that they have provoked the celebrity to give a response — even a rejection — makes them feel a distorted sense of self-importance.”

This trend is akin, in many ways, to more traditional forms of trolling, said Andrea Weckerle, founder of CiviliNation, a nonprofit charity organization working to combat online harassment. Trolling is when people post purposefully offensive or provocative content to upset someone else, and historically it has been done anonymously. That, however, has changed in the wake of the election. “We see people emboldened to come out and troll with their names on it,” Weckerle.

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While most people bragging about being blocked by a celebrity are doing so to get a taste of vicarious fame, Weckerle said it has also become a tool within activist communities. Essentially, being blocked by someone opposed to a given cause can rack up some serious brownie points among people who support that cause.

“For someone who works in the field of trying to advocate for responsible gun control, getting blocked by Ted Nugent wouldn’t be that bad,” Weckerle said, as an example. “Getting blocked by Ted would allow you to reach out to your network of supporters and say, ‘Hey, this guy won’t even give us the time of day.’” (Nugent is a musician and an outspoken proponent of the National Rifle Association.)

This could explain why some people tweeted that comedian Amy Schumer blocked them after criticizing her support of a colleague who defended someone accused of rape. Or why fans of President Trump rejoice in getting blocked by his online sparring partner Rosie O’Donnell. And the list of blockers goes on: from Ryan Seacrest to Rihanna. Celebrities can turn off their notifications, but blocking is a more personal way of exacting online retribution.

Regardless of the motive, though, the actions that lead celebrities to block followers on social media can be hard on them emotionally. That’s why Weckerle has few qualms in advocating for blocking people on social media, even though it can run the risk of triggering others to mimic the offending behavior. “If you have decided that you’re simply being abused, why would you allow somebody to do that?” she said.

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