Reply stalkers on social media: beware

On one level, the Twitter guy who feels the need to explain everything is laughable. On another, they're actually quite threatening.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

One of the uncomfortable things about teaching social media and audience engagement to journalism students is the awareness that you are essentially saying "hey, go out there and paint a target on yourself for arseholes" to the students who aren't white, straight guys.

Mashable's Chloe Bryan has written about one of the styles of digital stalker that they'll face: the man who mainly replies to women, to share the "benefit" of their "insight":

These men are colloquially known as "reply guys." While no reply guy is the same β€” each reply guy is annoying in his own way β€” there are a few common qualities to watch out for. In general, reply guys tend to have few followers. Their responses are overly familiar, as if they know the person they're targeting, though they usually don't. They also tend to reply to only women; the most prolific reply guys fill the role for dozens of women trying to tweet in peace.

And here's a handy chart of the nine major types of Reply Guy:

Yes, there is actual research behind this. However amusing the concept of Reply Guys is, this behavior is far from innocuous:

Still, reply guy behavior can escalate quickly β€” which is why a lot of women choose not to block the offenders. I once had a reply guy whose comments started off innocuous, then steadily became more frequent β€” and more suggestive β€” when I stopped liking his replies. Eventually, he also found me on Instagram and Facebook, where he continued to engage with the vast majority of my posts.

And this is the reason we emphasize self-protection as part of professional discipline if you're using social media for journalism.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.