Women Hate Reply Guys. Don't Be One.

Philip Ellis
·5 mins read

From Men's Health

In the decade or so since social media became entrenched in our daily lives, platforms like Twitter have evolved and fragmented, allowing a vast array of niche communities to flourish around shared experiences and common interests. But no matter which corner of the internet you happen to call home, there's something that half the online population is all-too-familiar with: the Reply Guy.

What is a Reply Guy?

This is a phenomenon that's largely unique to women on the internet, in which no matter what she says in a tweet or caption, there's a pretty good likelihood that a man will comment on it. Over time, she might find that the same dude is constantly in her mentions, giving the distinct impression that he's always got one eye on her feed. A reply guy might express his agreement and/or support. He might try to correct her. He may even want to engage in "healthy debate." More often than not, he'll swoop in with a remark that shoots for "complimentary" and lands on "inappropriate." But no matter the circumstances, he is there.

For some women, reply guys are a harmless nuisance. For others, the constant inundation of comments on every post takes up valuable time, attention and energy.

"Some are nice and supportive," says Natalie, "and others respond to every tweet with some sort of innuendo and it's exhausting." Sophie, meanwhile, thinks reply guys are "mostly just tiresome" and has a "mute and block" approach to dealing with them.

Not everybody takes a negative view of reply guys. "I get why people find it so off putting, I just see it as guys wanting to chat and there’s no harm to it unless they overstep," says Madeleine. "But mine are pretty good. The worst I get from them is trying to explain something I very clearly understand."

In far too many cases, though, these replies (undoubtedly composed with the intention of being funny or flirtatious) border on harassment. And just like in the real world, the woman navigating these interactions with a man they don't know find that the social burden rests on her to avoid hurting his feelings, for fear of escalating the situation and possibly even risking her own safety.

"Reply guys make me uncomfortable," says Katie. "Even if the replies themselves are harmless, they make you dread what they might lead to. Will they ask you to hang out IRL, and then you'll have to turn them down? And then, dreading this, you have to be almost mathematical about how much you choose to engage with them! And that takes energy."

She isn't alone. "If I don’t engage with them and they keep doing it? That starts to cross a line. Overfamiliarity in my replies will get you muted," says Hayley. "I also almost always prefer to mute unless there is a serious problem. My tweets are public anyway. I am always worried about blocking a guy who is going to use that rejection as a means to start harassing me elsewhere. I am constantly thinking about how to minimize risk."

The reply guy could be interpreted as an evolutionary offshoot of the internet disinhibition effect, where individuals feel emboldened to say things in online conversations that social conventions might prohibit in real life. And as you might expect from a scenario where a man feels entitled to say whatever he likes to a woman without fear of consequences, the results can be pretty upsetting for the recipient.

"A man once sent me 10 tweets/DMs over the space of an hour (who I never replied to, let alone followed) calling me ugly and multiple swearing insults because I dared to tweet that I didn't like a certain film," says Laura. "He didn’t even follow me, he must’ve just been looking for people to argue with."

Whether it's an influx of comments from the same man, or replies from multiple accounts, the reply guy effect can be cumulative—to the point where it has an impact on the recipients' own social media habits, and can even deter them from using a certain platform at all. "It's like, one mosquito bite is fine," says Clemence, "but if you get bitten by 10 to 15 mosquitoes every time you step outside, you might start going out a little bit less if it's not strictly necessary."

So how do men online avoid becoming the dreaded reply guy? Well, first and foremost, it's about intention. What are you hoping to achieve or obtain in this reply? Are you attempting to force engagement out of a conversational cul-de-sac? Is it possible that you're mansplaining in order to score points for your own ego? And if that's the case, is it not worth interrogating that motivation?

Ask yourself what you're actually getting out of this interaction, and if it's worth your own time and energy. If you're doing it in order to boost your self-esteem, does it work beyond the one second in which you have that random woman's attention? If not, you might want to consider spending your time on another activity. Like therapy.

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