Two years ago, I was standing in the kitchen of our canary yellow teach in Inis Chléire talking to my new friend, V.
I probably had a cup of tea in my hand. V was probably cooking soup with seaweed. There was probably a fat fly buzzing between us. We were chatting, as we often did. What else can one do in a winter lockdown on a three-square-mile island?
“Do you have many Reply Guys?”, V asked me, assuming that, as a journalist, it was likely I had a flood of strange men sinking my inbox.
A Reply Guy, for anyone who doesn’t know, is defined by Urban Dictionary as: “A man who behaves in an overly familiar way and is always replying to the social media messages of a woman he doesn’t know or is barely acquainted with.”
‘You cannot teach where I teach, and be in my classroom and not feel uplifted, or have hope for the future’
[ I used poetry to understand so much, including love and broken hearts, and to come to terms with my illness ]
They are the ones who reply to your Instagram story with the three light-blue droplets emoji and reply privately to your tweets with unwelcome advances. Reply Guys are a rampant species on the internet.
Anyway, I don’t have any Reply Guys, and I told V as much. They found this strange. How had I managed to avoid these Reply Guys?
Having a healthy inbox is a blessing for sure, but still I started to wonder. What was the reason for my Reply Guy social tumbleweed?
This conversation came up again more recently. “I don’t have any Reply ...”, I started to tell my friend. And then I paused. I remembered a flame emoji I had received in reply to a selfie the previous day. “I don’t have any Reply Guys,” I continued, “but I do have an army of Enthusiastic Aunts.”
Enthusiastic Aunts are flaithiúl with their Xs and love hearts, and there is usually a dancing woman in a red dress somewhere in the reply
Now, Reply Guys and Enthusiastic Aunts have a lot in common. They both reply to everything you post. Usually with a flame emoji. They leave no Instagram post or quirky tweet unanswered. They continue to message, even if you don’t immediately reply.
The difference is Enthusiastic Aunts are a very welcome species.
There are no entries for “Enthusiastic Aunt” on Urban Dictionary, but let’s pause here for a second and I will attempt to explain the concept.
An Enthusiastic Aunt replies to every selfie you post, usually with a message to pass on to your family: “Looking great B. Love to your dad Xx.”
[ Brigid O’Dea: The good things about having chronic migraine ]
She sends you clapping emojis when you share any minor achievement and replies with laughing faces to every meme you post. They are flaithiúl with their Xs and love hearts, and there is usually a dancing woman in a red dress somewhere in the reply.
You don’t have to be an aunt to fit the aesthetic, but you do have to be enthusiastic.
Enthusiastic Aunt is my favourite online persona. I am lucky to have a lot of them in my life, some of whom, are even my aunts. An Enthusiastic Aunt is also what, in life, I aspire most to be. More than a world-class writer or a culinary wizard, I want to be known for my unbridled enthusiasm.
There’s a funny thing, you see, about being sick. As much as illness can weaken you, being sick can soften you. Illness opens you up. It kneads your defences, until you are knocked to the pulp of your core. And that part is a little fragile. That part just wants niceness.
She knows there is no shame in being enthusiastic and cheerleading the little feats of the people in her life
Being sick reminds you how much really doesn’t matter, and how much really does. It reminds you that while humour and intelligence and quirkiness are enticing attributes, what really matters at the core of it all is kindness.
And an Enthusiastic Aunt knows this. She does not care about curating her image online to look a certain way, she doesn’t care about being cool – an Enthusiastic Aunt cares about being kind. She knows there is no shame in being enthusiastic and cheerleading the little feats of the people in her life. She knows that there is no harm sharing a missing dog post – isn’t it better they were found?
An Enthusiastic Aunt is not preoccupied about having edge because she knows that what this world needs is more softness.
She is the panacea to the virulent trend of noxious Reply Guys.
So, thanks to all the Enthusiastic Aunts out there making the internet a better place. I hope someday to be like you.