Youthsplaining: Are You a Reply Guy?
Before you say anything ... actually, just don't say anything.
“Have you checked that source?” “Well, I didn’t experience any sexism so that can’t be a factor.” “Name calling is hardly productive.” “Not impressed.” “#NotAllMen” “Send nudes?”
If you’ve replied to a woman on the internet with any of the above messages as of late, you are very likely a Reply Guy.
Reply guys seem to have exploded on the internet within the past couple of years, mainly on Twitter, where the problem has gotten so bad the social media platform recently implemented a feature that allows users to limit who can reply to their tweets.
But before you get all “That wasn’t my intention, I love and respect all women, you bitch!” Let’s unpack what it means to be a reply guy.
What’s a Reply Guy?
We can actually consult Dictionary.com for this one, where the reply guy has managed to acquire its own definition:
“A reply guy is a term for a man who frequently comments on tweets or other social media posts in an annoying, condescending, forward, or otherwise unsolicited manner — especially posts by women. It can also refer to a person who frequently and zealously responds to posts from famous people on Twitter.”
Before we get into the real meat and potatoes, aka the unsolicited comments made by annoying and plain ol’ misogynistic men, we can look to a few famous folk and their Twitter replies for a better understanding of the multifaceted reply guy.
Take President Donald Trump. If you have the mental stamina to browse the Leader of the Free World’s Twitter account, you might run into a few familiar reply guys from #Resistance Twitter, like Jeff Tiedrich who, with impeccable consistency and speed, manages to reply to every. single. thing. the president tweets.
On the other side of the political spectrum, congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has her own set of reply guys who are exponentially worse. Regardless of what the congresswomen tweets, there is a fleet of men calling her wildly racist and misogynistic names, insulting her past career as a bartender or calling her a blood-thirsty communist.
Obviously, these guys are really just upset over the fact that she’s an attractive, intelligent, hardworking, outspoken Latino woman who would never sleep with them. But that’s not an uncommon theme in the world of the reply guy.
You get the point. These are obsessive Twitter users persistently replying to a celebrity or public figure even though there is essentially no chance they’ll actually receive a response.
So what about the other type of reply guy?
Ask any of your female friends with Twitter accounts and considerable followings, and they’ll tell you about all the rando men they’ve never met who reply to every single thing they tweet. Like, anything they tweet. It can be something as simple as “I love mint chocolate chip ice cream” and some dude will be like, “Well, actually, rocky road is better.”
AOC’s mentions offer a glimpse into the more offensive, condescending and sometimes legitimately terrifying reply guy, but there are lots of different types of reply guys — even reply guys who actually mean well.
In 2018, two Twitter users created a helpful guide explaining the multiple types of reply guys. The chart was in response to the #MeTooSTEM movement — a hashtag users could use to highlight the sexual harassment they’ve dealt with within the field of science.
Users @sbarolo and @shrewshrew distinguish nine types of reply guys: The Life Coach, Tone Police, The Gaslighter, Cookie Manster, Himpathy, The Sealion, The Mansplainer, The Prestige and Trolls, Creeps & Fools. Each post goes into more detail of what each type of reply guy sounds like, why their reply is problematic and other warnings to look out for.
For example, whenever a woman tweets about abusive and problematic male behavior, the Cookie Manster must make sure she knows he’s not like those other bad guys — #NotAllMen, in other words. The idea is that, while he may very well be a nice guy who supports equality and detests abuse, he doesn’t get a cookie for respecting women.
Meanwhile, other kinds of reply guys have completely ill-intentions — like the guy who asks a bunch of bad-faith questions, typically in response to a woman’s harrowing account of her sexual assault, to garner some proof that harassment and abuse exist. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how many details or statistics she gives him because the point is not to convince him, it’s to exhaust her.
In July, English comedian Suzanna Kempner posted a Twitter thread that also attempted to clarify the different types of reply guys. Kempner wrote, “This is a thread about Reply Guys. I like it when tweets go viral coz I’m a big show-off and Twitter is responsible for most of my career. When you go viral you get new followers, fun replies, sometimes even industry interest omg. But you also get: Reply Guys.”
The thread goes on to explain the more nuanced type of reply guys women might experience after a tweet of theirs goes viral. Like the weirdly overfamiliar guy who thinks you are his girlfriend or the guy who does not find you or your tweet funny and must inform you of this fact. Also that he’s going to unfollow you.
And of course, there is the random guy who slides into your DMs to ask you out on a date and maybe, if you wouldn’t mind, to send some nudes?
But while there is unfortunately an exuberant amount of reply guys out there, the one thing they all have in common is that no one fucking asked. Like, literally. No one requested them to open their mouths, grace us with their shitty opinions and creep everyone out.
So How Can I Make Sure I Don’t Become a Reply Guy?
It seems very simple, but you could start by just not talking to women you don’t know. This applies when you are in parks and when you are on the internet.
Social media can make it seem like we know someone a lot better than we actually do. You might follow women who post personal anecdotes, nudes or other overly familiar information — but these are not invitations to slide into DMs and reply to their tweets with unsolicited advice and creepy comments. Especially if those women are bravely sharing stories of abuse.
What you should do, as the iconic Lilly Moscovitz from the equally iconic film The Princess Diaries would say, is shut up and listen.
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