What It Means to Be “Down Bad,” And Why It’s Not a Totally Terrible Thing

A new phrase has entered the internet lexicon, but it's not only for men who are being excessively thirsty on Twitter

March 11, 2021 7:36 am
A screenshot of a text message that says oh in response to another message that reads Oh in reply to received text message reads: Hey, I just wanted to say that I've seen that you have been typing for a bit ... I'm going to save you the trouble, I'm not interested...
Astronomically down bad.
Down Bad Patrol / Melinda Podor

You lose a bet. Your car breaks down. You get rejected over text by someone you’re crushing hard on. What you might be having is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Or as the kids would say today: You’re down bad.

The phrase “down bad” has entered the internet lexicon and seen more and more usage over the past few months. Above all, it’s a phrase thrown at men online who have no shame in being embarrassingly horny, as evidenced by the popular Instagram account @downbadpatrol, AKA Dudes Who Are Down Bad, which documents the many instances of dudes being — astronomically — down bad. 

The top definition on Urban Dictionary for “down bad” simply reads: “When someone is depressingly horny.” The phrase initially gained popularity as a label for thirsty men creepily commenting on photos of women or futilely replying to them on the internet, right there in plain sight where everyone can see it. But similar to the way the word “simp” is now being used, self-proclamations of being down bad are also common, with many internet users poking fun at themselves for being pathetically single and horny. 

But the meaning of the phrase is still being contested, even by prominent figures in the down bad movement like Palmer Ward, who runs @downbadpatrol. 

Before it was suspended by Twitter for reasons still unknown to Ward, @downbadpatrol had over 1 million followers. “It was growing at about 100,000 followers a day at one point,” Ward tells InsideHook. The Twitter account posted mostly screenshots of men getting hilariously rejected by women or their hopeful romantic interests. Since his sudden suspension, Ward has now pivoted most of his focus to Instagram, where the account continues to post user-submitted screenshots and has around 116,000 followers. 

For the account, Ward drew inspiration from another popular Twitter account. The Horny Police do exactly what you’d suspect them to do: patrol the internet and catch people being Horny on Main. While Ward found the tweets funny, the crude and explicit nature is not something he wanted to replicate for @downbadpatrol (The Horny Police, it bears noting, have been the subject of criticism for turning instances of sexual harassment into jokes.)

Ward knows “down bad” is being used in hornier contexts, but he’s trying to bring the term back to its original, intended usage.

The phrase gained momentum due to a 2019 J.Cole song titled “Down Bad.” The song’s chorus, from rapper JID, rings: “I was just fucked up, I was just down, down bad / I had to tighten the fuck up, but I’m here for the crown.” According to a user-submitted explanation on the song-lyric website Genius, this line is describing “his humble origins, which involved being impoverished and his desire to find a way out of the projects.” In this sense, being down bad is likened to being downtrodden or feeling like you’ve hit a low point. 

Ward views the phrase as the perfect way to sum up that feeling of getting rejected, losing all your money gambling or even losing the Super Bowl — and many internet users are still using down bad in this context, to express being depressed or having to deal with an unfortunate mishap.

“Down bad isn’t something that I see as explicit or gross or creepy. I think being down bad is a term that I would define as someone shooting their shot and embarrassing themselves or someone shooting their shot and it’s just like an unavoidable rejection,” explains Ward. “It’s anything from a guy getting rejected to a guy spending a lot of money on a bet and losing it all. When the Chiefs lost the Super Bowl, I posted a picture of Patrick Mahomes with no caption — it was just he’s down bad.”

Down bad has gone through an evolution similar to the term “simp.” That word was first a fixture in Black culture, but was then co-opted by incels and men’s rights activists, who used simp to demean men who pined after women uninterested in them. But as we wrote last year, simp has largely been reclaimed by the broader internet, who apply it to situations that have nothing to do with courtship (e.g., conservative Twitter pundit Ben Shapiro simping for the royal family this week) or deploy it with a note of self-deprecation, both of which serve to disarm the word of its misogynistic undertones.

While simp is now mostly used in a positive context, it still has roots in misogyny, something Ward has been wary of happening with @downbadpatrol. Most of his account’s posts feature men getting rejected by women. And while it’s widely understood that these are harmless, funny posts, there is still a fear misogynists will try and co-opt it, turning the phrase, account and community Ward has built into something hateful. 

“The goal I had in mind when I started the account was to make it something that guys and girls can both laugh at. Obviously it’s more guys getting rejected than girls just because that’s how it is, but I try to make it to cater to everybody,” explains Ward. 

“When I started the Twitter account, I included ‘no incels allowed.’ Those are the people that were trying to take the word and the stir and buzz around my account and use the term for their advantage to demonize women. And I tried everything in my power to try and change the narrative to make ‘down bad’ an inclusive term that everyone’s going to have a good laugh about.”

Despite the valid concern, Ward has found the community surrounding his account to be a generally positive one. “I was worried about forming a toxic community, but based on the responses and the replies and the DMs I was getting, the group chats people were adding me to, I seem to get a positive response from men and women,” he adds. 

Because while “down bad” may be largely identified with screenshots of men getting rejected or publicly advertising their horniness, we’ve all been down bad at some point in our lives, regardless of how we identify. And while we’re laughing at specific, hilarious examples of men getting pitifully rejected, we’ve all, at some point, been there.

“There was never really a good word to express ‘I got rejected,’ ‘I’m sad’ or ‘I’m bummed out,’ but down bad is like a cooler word to encompass a year in the dumps,” says Ward, adding that he thinks it’ll be a term with some staying power — especially if Twitter gives him his account back.

“I have nothing but respect for the people at Twitter, but would just like to have someone who works there reach out to me so we could get it sorted out,” says Ward. Especially since, as we know, it’s very easy for fun internet terms to take a bad turn. 

“I would love the Twitter account back, and I do love my Instagram followers. I love running both accounts and I hope to keep the word in the popular culture. Because down bad is a positive way to group experiences and things that could’ve turned toxic if they weren’t in the right hands.”

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