We've all been there: You're minding your own business, scrolling through your Instagram feed, when you get a direct message. To your surprise, it's not a meme from your mom about napping too much. It's some guy you've never met before with a sketchy-looking thumbnail image. Whether it's a simple "hey" or a "compliment" that's as grotesque as it is misogynistic, unsolicited messages are, unfortunately, the new norm.
So what do you do when a skeevy dude or random chick slides into your DMs? Ignore them? Take them down with a witty comeback? Block them? Or maybe screenshot the conversation and put them on blast? As we see in go90's show t@gged, where anonymous online harassment is rife, there's no decided-upon course of action for this type of behavior. That's why we reached out to the experts to get some answers.
The Tactic: Ignore 'Em
According to etiquette coach Patricia Rossi, responding to an internet creep in any way just encourages them. "The minute you engage, they've won. It will just inspire them to continue, and they will come on stronger," she says.
The minute you engage, they've won.
Patricia Rossi, etiquette coach
No one knows this better than Ella Jordan, an Instagram model who's amassed a following of more than 40,000. Like most social media influencers, she's no stranger to aggressive come-ons, attacks, and harassment (from men and women) in both her comment section and direct messages, and she says, more than anything, DM creeps are looking for a reaction. "All they want is to 'win.' They're combative and insecure, and they want you to come back at them. So by responding, you're just adding fuel to the fire. You're giving them more ammo."
In contrast, by ignoring them, you're shutting it down before it escalates into something more contentious. You're also avoiding the bad publicity that would come with this person putting you on blast. And by not feeding into their bad behavior in any way, shape, or form, you're giving them a reason to shut up and (hopefully) think twice about their message.
And if they don't go away? Sherman suggests directly telling them to stop contacting you and blocking them if you haven't already. There's also the Instagram feature that allows you to delete DMs before you even open them.
The Tactic: Put Them On Blast
While some women find it beneficial (and sometimes hilarious) to take the creep in question down with a searing comeback and plaster a screenshot on their social media channels and group chats — for either their own entertainment or as an FYI to fellow followers — pretty much every expert denounces this ploy. "I would 100% advise against this. Just don't feed into it either way," Rossi says. As tempting as the idea of publicly shaming them can be, it's best to just be the bigger person in these situations.
Echoing Rossi's sentiment, Jordan notes that by putting them on blast, you're, in a way, rewarding the behavior and just driving more eyeballs to their conduct. She also emphasizes that you're running the risk of infuriating someone with a fragile ego, who may have access to your personal information (say, if he started out appearing normal and you let a few details about yourself slip out).
Sherman agrees. "Putting someone on blast could inflame a situation, and if that person's unstable, they could get even more belligerent and angry and retaliatory."
They could get even more belligerent and angry and retaliatory.
Dr. Paulette Sherman, author of Dating From The Inside Out
Moral of the story is: There aren't many benefits to this tactic (besides maybe getting some retweets). And it turns out, you probably don't want to piss off a menacing internet rando more than you have to.
All signs point to ignoring the harasser in question and going about your day. While you might immediately feel the urge to give them a piece of your mind or detonate a screenshot on your social media channels, according to the experts, it's not worth it. And who knows? Maybe one day someone non-creepy will slide into your DMs. No need to ignore them.