On the internet, you can be anybody... dude
So, I have a job that involves running social media accounts. I try to do this without sounding too much like myself. That's the point of being a copywriter, after all.
It's had an unexpected side effect. Maybe it's the username, maybe it's the brand tone of voice, but everyone I have a text convo with assumes I'm male. I always get referred to as 'he'. Or 'man', or 'dude'.
I don't mind, and it makes zero difference to the client, but I find it really interesting.
It's the way that you say it
Ever since I started learning Japanese, I've tried to use 'feminine' language. Certain words and parts of speech are more commonly used by women and girls. Using the 'male' versions would make me sound... weird. They're like the Yorkie bars of the Japanese language.
(And the way I speak in Japanese is apparently so feminine sometimes that it borders on 'effeminate man' instead. I think I overcompensated. I need to work on that.)
We have some 'gendered' English, but it's not as built into the language itself. It's more about how you say something than what was said. The way I speak in English is fairly neutral - especially for work purposes. I don't think I sound girly or manly.
Sometimes text doesn't give enough context
In that case, it means people assume I'm male just because I'm more likely to be. There's not much else to go on - no pic, no pronouns in my bio. So on the male/female population ratio alone, there's a slightly higher change of me being a man. Not by much, but 'there are more men than women in the world' is common knowledge.
It's a default assumption, pure and simple. Context is important for all social interactions, and on the internet that applies tenfold. Without a name or face in any of the social profiles to put the words to, people default to 'huh, must be a guy'.
Maybe I need to use more pink heart emojis? Leave a 'mwah' kiss at the end of every message? Nah, that wouldn't work, I know guys who do that all the time...
It's not me, it's you
My attempts to build familiarity and rapport with people includes calling them 'dude'. (I do already know they're guys when I call them that.)
It feels like they look at that use of 'dude' and assume I must also be 'dude'. Call me 'man', and lo, I shall do the same... bro. Brofist? Yeah, bro.
Dude, I didn't mean me when I said that stuff.
I wasn't aware that only dudes called other dudes 'dude'. It made me start to wonder if I was missing something. Or if I should just use '...you' like Carl from Llamas with Hats.
I've seen other Twitter accounts call their followers 'babe' or 'lady'. If it fits the brand and doesn't piss people off, fine. But I don't see any of their followers using those words back. (Tweet me if you spot anything that proves me wrong on that point.) Why is that?
I think it's because they're trying too hard to be brands, and not the people trying to run and monitor the accounts.
The challenge for all copywriters
A while back, I wrote about being asked to write gender-specific copy for a client.
That was about addressing different genders, rather than the author being seen as one or the other. But writing this post reminded me of writing that stuff.
'Gender' in copywriting is largely specified by the brief and the tone of voice. In some cases - cologne, nappies, makeup, football - it's weaved in to appeal to the 'key' audience. In many others, it's not a consideration.
The most formal business social media accounts sound exactly like... businesses. They're not male or female... or human. They're reeling off stock phrases with no personality - and it's a little disconcerting that companies think they need to sound that way to be successful.
I'd rather be a 'dude' than a robot, if those are my options.