“No DMs!”; long form – “No Direct Messages!“… It’s a prominent chant in certain pockets of the vast Twitter userbase, but why only certain pockets? And is the “No DMs!” admonishment really a necessary inclusion in a Twitter bio? Let’s mull it over…
“No DMs” is much more common among women than among men, which suggests the phrase is largely rooted in a male predatory issue.
The frequent coupling of “No DMs” with “No dick pics” further supports that suggestion. A lot of men do try to use Twitter as a dating site, or a ‘perving’ site, or a ‘flashing’ site, or at least a means to avail themselves of female emotional comforts without having to pay for a premium rate service. However, at first glance, there appears to be some illogicality to the way in which “No DMs” warnings are distributed…
For example, Twitter’s former Favstar community appears to have a higher “No DMs” quota than, say, the professional glamour model community.
If you weren’t aware of it, Favstar was a Twitter add-on which facilitated and encouraged reciprocal engagement. It had nothing to do with sex or titillation, and the core users were responsible people with a mature, if often offbeat mentality. But former Favstar users tend to Follow to be Followed, Like to be Liked, and Retweet to be Retweeted. They often do all of these things on an industrial scale. And if you’re Following on an industrial scale, you’re giving random people private messaging access on an industrial scale. If you’re also engaging positively with those random people’s tweets, you’re expressing additional support, which they can interpret in a range of ways.
Conversely, pro glamour models, whilst obviously portraying themselves in a highly sexual light, tend to be very selective with their Following habits. So whilst it’s clear, from the public activity surrounding their accounts, that glamour models are much more aggressively pursued by sex pests than the Favstar community, they don’t have such a potential problem with DMs, because they’re simply not giving randoms any DM access.
So “No DMs” can obviously be taken to mean “No DMs”. But it can also, based on the above, be taken to mean “I don’t really know who I’m following or engaging with”.
HOW MANY DMs DO WOMEN ON TWITTER GET, AND HOW BAD ARE THE DMs?
If you’ve read How To Make a Fake Twitter Account, you’ll know I’ve run convincing fake female accounts on Twitter, in an ethical manner (i.e. no stolen pics or real people’s identities), and that the behaviour I’ve seen from men has been almost universally acceptable. As I said in the article, I have taken care not to follow obvious sex pests, but I’ve still followed random guys, and over 99% have not sent a single DM. None have sent dick pics, ever.
I know it’s a very different story for women who deliberately bait men’s sexual urges for money. Some actually publish their DMs on Twitter, and the men’s behaviour can be shocking. But expressly trying to monetise Mr Horny Guy’s desires is a different area. You can’t extrapolate the experiences of adult providers across the entire female Twitter userbase.
However, there’s a broader-based phenomenon that could quickly become an irritation for women who use Twitter a lot. Flirting. In the follow-for-follow and reciprocal engagement environments, some men will pathologically insert kisses, hearts, and even flower emoticons into their tweets when replying to any woman they find attractive. From first sight.
It’s inappropriate, lame, unnecessary, and I can see how it would cause discomfort. Female adult/PRS providers accept and even encourage it, because it makes them money. And that persuades some men that real-world women want hearts and kisses from strangers too. But experience it for yourself, and the next time you read the word “Ugh…” in the realm of ‘feminist Twitter’, it’s suddenly the most relatable word in the world.
It’s at this point that “No DMs” gains another meaning. Those flirty guys have value to many women in profile-building terms. They engage heavily, in a world where engagement is currency. But they engage for a reason, and that reason is to befriend women who tickle their fancy. Given the men’s goals, it’s in their interests to move the interactions into a private area. But for the women it’s the opposite. They don’t want to be locked away with some random dude-on-heat, watching his heart and blushface-arranging efforts. They want to progress their profile.
So now, “No DMs” says: “If you want to engage, do it on the public platform where I can get something back in terms of profile and visibility. Don’t try to engage privately, where it’s really only going to benefit you.”
STALKING AND ANXIETIES
The next motivation for a “No DMs” warning is fear. A lot of people have anxieties, and even if they don’t, stalking on social media is a real problem. It only takes one person to turn a social media experience sour, and we should not diminish the psychological impact of something just because it only happened once.
Stalkers are persistent, and furtive, and they thrive on private access. They often circumvent blocking by creating new accounts. And once someone has felt the helplessness of being unable to shut out a persistent pest, it’s natural for them to be very cautious about getting into any kind of private interaction.
For those with anxieties, private communication can be an ordeal by default. People are statistically more manipulative and badly behaved in private communication than they are when subject to the public gaze. That, indeed, is precisely why some people seek private access. And it’s not just individual people. Businesses are absolute terrors for trying to take their interactions out of public view. Fundamentally, they want to behave in a selfish and/or manipulative manner, without the public being able to see they’re doing it. Many people of an anxious disposition come to see public accountability as a protection.
“No DMs” now becomes a very genuine expression of fear.
But most people are social, reasonably authoritative, and they like to talk. Is there, then, sometimes an element of posturing in the “No DMs” warning? Could it, at times, just be a bid to appear popular? Like:
“Oh God I just get so many DMs from guys ALLLLL the time, ‘cos I’m such a fantastically desirable man-magnet.”
Let’s look at an area where some of the previous explanations start to break down…
MEN WHO WARN “NO DMs!”
It would be pretty stupid to suggest that men on Twitter are writing “No DMs!” in their bio because they can’t handle the thought of receiving “Hey gorgeous” messages from women. I mean, even if the guy is nervous, how many real women even go around doing that? Pornbots and adult vendors, yes. Regular women, no. And if you’re following pornbots and adult vendors, what, realistically, would you expect? So if men are not using “No DMs” to discourage women from flirting or sending dirty pictures, why are they using it?…
Some may have placed the phrase in their bio during the era of DM spam, and just not updated it since. Until autumn 2017, Twitter apps were allowed to automatically spam an app user’s every new follower with a promotional DM. It was hell for those who followed a lot of people. But since Twitter banned apps from perpetrating DM spam over a year ago, Direct Messaging on Twitter has generally been user-specific and of human origin – even in the follow-for-follow sector.
I can’t see any need for a man who isn’t either famous, very influential, devastatingly attractive, or obviously very rich, to be newly inserting “No DMs” into his bio as we head towards 2019.
And yet since the era of DM spam ended, prolifery of the “No DMs” warning appears to have increased. There are definitely men newly placing the phrase into their bio. Are we now into the territory of self-aggrandisation?
“Hey, I’m such a fantastic, popular guy that… Look, are you listening?… I said NO DMs!!! Did you hear me?… I’m such a popular guy that I need to tell people not to bother me!”
Or is it just the echo-chamber at play? Placing “No DMs” in a bio seems cool, so people do it to look cool? Maybe it’s a manifestation of virtue signalling? Men trying to reassure women that they’re not a threat, so that women on Twitter will trust them more? Any of these explanations may apply.
There are even now some over-50 guys writing the “married AF” (married as fuck) cliché in their bio. Surely, that can only be because they’ve seen women write it and want to align themselves with those women. You can’t tell me that a non-famous, non-influential bloke in his middle-age seriously needs to warn off prowling females who are going to try and prize him away from his wife via Twitter. Or that the wife of that guy is so suspicious he’ll be swept away from her by a Twitter babe, that she insists he puts up a sign.
It does look a bit ridiculous coming from middle-aged men. But this then raises the same question regarding the women who write it. Are all women who declare themselves “married AF”, declaring it because they actually have a problem with men hitting on them, or are some declaring it because they’ve seen other women do so and they think it looks boss?
Neither men nor women can be excluded from the possibility of using the “No DMs” warning for self-aggrandisation. And adding weight to the self-aggrandisation theory is the fact that a “No DMs” warning may well be ineffective anyway. A lot of the people who DM, do it habitually and don’t read profile pages. I tried a variant of “No DMs” for a while on a fake female account, and actually saw one more DM than usual over the same period.
It’s also hard to reject the echo-chamber dynamic as a factor behind the spread of “No DMs” warnings, because the phrase proliferates in certain communities, but not in others that have an equal or greater risk of attracting DMs from strangers.
There are many reasons for the inclusion of “No DMs” in a Twitter bio, and the majority, I believe, are rooted in a real motivation to eliminate or reduce private messaging contact. It would be nice if Twitter gave users the option to blanket-block all DMs, and then approve DM access on a selective basis. But I doubt they will. Primarily, because the DM system is a very valuable component in the site’s data-mining toolkit. It’s an interesting subject, though, and one which has highlighted a very clear male/female divide.