Wiki for SX Anti-pattern: Reply Sigh (aka "Reply Guy")

:speaking_head:  Discuss this anti-pattern in this thread: SX Anti-pattern: Reply Sigh (aka “Reply Guy”)


I was inspired to write this text after witnessing yet another example of one of the common social patterns frequently seen in public square social media:

One of many variants of the “Reply Guy” that play out on the Fediverse.

Here’s the related fediscussion.

Pattern description

An anti-pattern, where usually people on both sides of the communication clash are frustrated, and leave stung and hurt. So, whoever is to blame, the pattern is toxic. It is even more toxic, since both sides of the conflict assign blame to the other party. And often then try to convince their side of the public square listeners that they were just wronged.

Consider this scenario:

On a bustling town square fulll of people where amidst the crowds one person suddenly shouts loudly:

"Oww, my tooth hurts like crazy!"

Most people don’t react. One passer-by takes note, stops, and says with genuine concern:

"You should go see a dentist for relief."

The addressed person’s head swivels around, eyes ablaze, focusing intently on the advising stranger, and bites back to them in loud voice:

"I do not need or want your advice.
I've been going to the dentist my entire life.
You don't know the extent of my pain,
neither the reason why I have this tooth ache."

Taken aback, eyes of a crowd now on them, the adviser murmles an apology and tries to dissolve into the masses again, away from all attention.

Who is right or wrong? The person in genuine pain, but not needing help? Or the person showing empathy, and trying to help? Now, in a real-world town square this situation wouldn’t likely happen, because in that situation the social context is richer than online. The empathy that triggered the advice would’ve been more apparent on the face of the adviser. And the angry reply would be clearly unwarranted and not being seen as sympathetic by bystanders.

But online things are different. We are only half-way in on the common dynamics of the “Reply Guy” anti-pattern now…

As the advising person tries to sneak away, tooth-ache person turns to the crowd and starts to orate:

"Did you see what this person just did, people?
They advised Me, while I didn't ask for that!
Such arrogance. This person is obviously very full of themself.
Remember people, don't be like that person!"

In turn the advisor hearing this while walking off, seeks understanding of people nearest to them:

"Geez, what did I do wrong? I was only trying to help!
This town is terrible. I will never come here again."

In many instances these further exchanges are often laden with derogatives or even discrimation to increase their impact & effect:

"Of course the person is of [this gender] and [color]! 
This is such typical behavior of these folks."

Pattern outcome

A lose-lose situation has now occured between the two persons in contact. And both try to opinionate others to be on their side of the conflict. In public square social media dynamics the situation is often more unbalanced even. Like in the case where the “person in pain” is an influencer with many followers, in the analogy they would represent something of a reputable Nobleperson with high standing on that square, having the local townspeople on their hand.

Common mitigation tactics

So, all that said… How to mitigate this anti-pattern from happening over and over again?

Our microblogging environment lacks proper tools and features. Ideally the situation of “unwanted advice” was prevented from ever occurring in the first place. Instead, the “Reply Guy” anti-pattern mitigation tactic most seen is moral/ethical teaching in the form of “public beratement” (a punishment), in hope that that changes the socio-cultural norms and values that the people in that town prefer to hold high.

Though it may work to an extent, it is unlikely to be very effective, as in public square social media, the town is analogous to a touristic hot-spot where throngs of visitors from abroad continuously wander in. To the ever growing frustration of townspeople, who have no intent to be rude, but see no other way. They lost their patience with these tourists a long time ago.

Better solutions

There was more to add, but the deletion of the toot saw me lose URL to the website that was created as “fix” for social anti-patterns. A bad fix, imho. Can anyone point me to this website that has these card designs to throw after someone like referee cards, for displaying unwanted behavior on the fedi?