Reply guys

Americans have a notable talent for naming phenomena, a fact exemplified by the term “reply guys” – individuals who post disparaging comments on public posts made by women.

Recently, two women who have made significant strides in traditionally male-dominated fields — Veronica in Linux/free software and Sophie in web development – expressed frustration with the behavior of reply guys on Mastodon.

Veronica opted to temporarily deactivate her Mastodon account. Sophie, on the other hand, had a light-hearted post matching her hair color with her IDE end up on 4chan because the code snippet wasn’t accessible — not an issue in that particular context.

This isn’t a new issue. Back in 2020, Twitter rolled out filters to curb the antics of reply guys. Come November 2023, Mastodon followed suit, introducing alerts on Android for those attempting to respond to posts from non-mutual followers or ancient posts.

These measures make sense. Sophie acknowledged Mastodon’s blocking and muting functionalities in her post, though she found the implementation in her favorite app, Ice Cubes, lacking.

Maybe the biggest harm inflicted by 2010s social media platforms on public discourse was the notion that we’re obligated to opine on everything, that we can’t resist hitting “Reply” online—especially if the other party isn’t male, or if the matter doesn’t concern us, or if the error is inconsequential.

Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible to scroll past a trivial opinion or comment and move on.

One unintended consequence of these regrettable incidents is the stark reminder that there’s no utopia on the internet. While Mastodon is often seen as the antithesis of post-Elon Musk Twitter, it’s not without its flaws. Don’t get me wrong: I still believe Mastodon beats out Twitter/X and other alternatives — but only because those options were/are pretty dire.

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