Mastodon’s latest update aims to address a common problem experienced by Twitter users: dealing with the nuisance of the “reply guys.” This colloquial term refers to men who frequently respond to women’s posts in an overly familiar manner, often resorting to “mansplaining,” tone policing, offering unsolicited advice, or gaslighting the original poster. The phenomenon of reply guys has long plagued social media platforms. Now, the Mastodon app for Android is experimenting with a solution in the form of a simple reminder that will alert users when they are about to respond to a stranger. These reminders may also provide context, such as highlighting if the stranger is an expert in their field or if the post being replied to is outdated, in an effort to prevent unnecessary or unhelpful commentary.
Mastodon founder and CEO, Eugen Rochko, explains that, “While we’re exploring multiple different avenues to tackle this issue, the idea we’re experimenting with today is simply reminding people when they’re about to respond to a stranger.” The company believes that displaying information about the person being responded to can avert awkward situations, such as explaining something to an expert in a given field.
The new feature will also remind users when they are replying to a post that is over three months old, as these are no longer part of an active discussion. These older posts often receive accidental responses when someone encounters them while searching for a particular topic.
Users can dismiss the warnings by tapping on the “Got it” button or a smaller, less obtrusive option, “Don’t remind me again.”
The new features are initially launching on the Mastodon app for Android, with plans for them to arrive on the iOS app soon. If successful, Mastodon intends to implement these features on its web interface as well.
Twitter, now called X, had previously utilized small nudges effectively, prompting users to reconsider actions such as retweeting without reading the article or taking a screenshot instead of sharing a tweet. Additionally, it introduced a feature that encouraged users to revise “harmful” replies, resulting in a significant reduction of offensive language in responses. However, it is essential to strike a balance between helpful nudges and preserving the platform as a space for sharing personal opinions and ideas.
By framing the new feature as an “experiment,” Mastodon retains the ability to adjust the frequency and timing of the reminders based on user feedback. This approach enables the company to gather data on the effectiveness of the nudges and make appropriate modifications if necessary.
Rochko emphasizes the company’s commitment to ensuring a positive posting experience on Mastodon, stating, “We hear time and time again how much people enjoy coming to Mastodon to have real conversations with real people. And we want to ensure it stays that way.”