So, here you are, my friend, following a lot of brilliant women on Twitter (I hope). It's so fun, and the best part of Twitter is connecting with people, so you want to reply to some of her great tweets with your own great opinions and jokes! Cool, cool, but here are some things to keep in mind.
Like most other spaces on earth, the internet is a deeply unchill place for women. Ask the female internet denizens in your life about the harassment, the unsolicited dick pics, the anonymous abuse, the stalkers. We really go through a lot to bring you our jokes and hot takes! Even though you're trying hard to be an adequate dude and would personally never harass anyone, this is still the context we're all operating in. When you tweet at a woman, try to see yourself not as you see yourself, and as you probably are—an amiable, good-hearted fellow with lots of interesting things to say—but as she does, and must: another male rando in a veritable sea of randos. Most of the randos are innocuous—only a small handful are dangerous or intentionally shitty—but all of them are demanding our time and attention on top of what we're already dealing with. Yikes!
I know that when you have a public Twitter account, you are, to a certain degree, consenting to having any old schmo talk to you. This is technically true, but I'm writing this from a humanistic perspective and assuming you genuinely want women to have chiller lives, possibly at the expense of your ability to say whatever you want to whoever you want whenever you want. And this article is gendered, even though the behaviors I'll be describing aren't always dude-specific, and the advice can definitely be more broadly applied, because ask any woman on Twitter: The vast majority of the people doing these things to us are dudes, and men @ us so much more and more recklessly than they do other men. The fact is, men have been raised to view women as safe targets to talk at and endless founts of attention, and even the best and most conscientious of you still often treat us that way. So it's definitely healthy to second-guess yourself a bit more when you're talking to women, even though it feels like an imposition.
So with our shared understanding that you want to be less annoying to women on Twitter (given that life is plenty annoying for us anyway), here are a few little ways you can help accomplish that goal!
Don't make our own jokes back at us, or explain them to us. This one should hopefully be easy. When you are about to add on to a woman's joke, just take a second and really think (at about the speed indicated by the ellipses, to give you plenty of time to really mull it over): "Is it possible ... that ... what I am about to say ... is exactly the joke ... SHE was making?" Look deep into your heart. If it is possible, err on the side of not making the joke. I promise that everyone will be okay without it. (Check out the replies to this joke for a very meta example of this phenomenon.)
Don't be a pedant. Before you hit her with the #actually (highly useful terminology care of Desus), consider again: Is it possible she was making a joke? Joke-making by women has been legal for years, and many of us have gotten very good at it. Okay, so you've considered it, and it definitely wasn't a joke, it was just a factual error. Was it a truly harmful error? Then definitely, go ahead and correct it! But did she just imply that Tarantino directed True Romance, when really he just wrote the screenplay? Oh, buddy. I know it feels pretty awesome to correct people, and scratches what feels like a very urgent itch, but the same is true for jerking off, and we just don't do that in public. Chances are someone has already told her, and if they haven't, that's still okay. Really!
Don't be a mentions pest. Almost any woman with a fair number of followers will know what I'm talking about here: someone who you don't follow but who @'s you all the time with innocuous but inane comments or questions, nothing so out of line that you'd feel justified telling them to fuck off, but constantly making little demands on your attention. It's surprisingly exhausting! Social cues exist on Twitter, too, mostly in the form of faving or replying. If you're making a lot of little jokes in her mentions and she's not even pity-faving them, I'm so sorry, but you're probably being a mentions pest. Maybe chill a little.
Don't derail and make it about you. Yes, we know, not ALL men. You, personally, would never. Is that really, truly what's important here, though?
Don't imitate bad dudes in our mentions. This one is really specific, but it's also shockingly common. Like, when we're like, "Ugh, another strange dude frickin' told me to smile today," some dude will @ us all jokingly like, "Durrr but you're so much prettier when you smile!!!" First of all, if we don't know you, why would we instinctively get that you're joking when it matches actual things that actual dudes say to us? Even if we do get that you're joking—even if you're a friend—I hope you can imagine that it doesn't seem to us to be the funniest, most original joke we've ever heard. Instead, it comes off as a self-serving gesture to cast yourself as "one of the good ones" who "gets it." But adding on to the endless chorus of dudes who say wack shit to us, even in jest, is just not the move.
Faving is almost always cool. Ditto thank-yous, expressions of sympathy, non-gross compliments, answers to actual questions, and pictures of cute animals. (One exception to "faving is cool": If you see girls talking amongst themselves about sex or their bodies or something, don't fav that. We know you can see it, the same way we know you can overhear us in public, but it's like if we were having the conversation at a coffee shop and you winked at us. Eww.)
It's probably cool if you want to defend us from trolls, but keep us out of it. If someone is harassing us and you want to tell them about themselves, thank you, that's super sweet. But take our handle out of your reply to them so we don't have to keep seeing it in our mentions. And try to be thoughtful about not drawing our attention to trolls unnecessarily, or drawing their fire to us.
If someone tells you that you're being weird or annoying or creepy, say sorry and cut it out. It doesn't matter if she's being way harsh about it, or that you're a super-awesome dude and didn't mean it that way—literally the only cool move when someone enforces their boundaries is to respect them, apologize, and back off. Even if you weren't being a creep before, a really easy way to make yourself one is to stick around after someone's made it clear that they want you to leave them alone, even if it was for what you think is a bullshit reason.
If you don't know each other, maybe just don't @ her. This one is going to make dudes mad, I think, but like ... what if you just didn't? Would you die? Maybe think about why you feel entitled to have a stranger listen to your thoughts at all? This isn't a perfect analogy, but a good rule of thumb is to treat the mentions of someone who doesn't follow you back (i.e. someone who hasn't explicitly consented to listen to you) like you're asking her to take out her earbuds on the bus. (Here's a bonus article-within-an-article, by the way, entitled "How To Talk To Women On Public Transportation": Oh gosh please just don't.) Is what you have to say funny or interesting enough that you'd feel good about saying it to her while she looks at you blankly, earbuds dangling? Listen, I'm just urging you to consider the alternative path of not @'ing her whenever you're about to @ her. You may find that it suits you, and sorry, but there's a good chance it'd suit us, too.
Lily Benson lives in Massachusetts and tweets @lil_mermaid.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.
Adequate Man is Deadspin's new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.