That “WHO CARES” Guy: Performative Apathy

For those of us who still do read the comments, despite all the pleas for us to pretend like they don’t exist, it is almost impossible to not notice patterns and trends. Documenting said comment thread tropes is A Thing now (with my favorite examples being at The Toast), so I’m not going to make another bingo board like the kind I whipped up for Miri once.

all too easy

I would, however, like to express my appreciation for my absolute favorite stock commenter: the ever-present “WHO CARES” Guy.

Though he is to be found everywhere, “WHO CARES” Guy is named after the news article comment section version of this particular trope. He is the kind of man who takes time out of his day to find, click on, read through, sign in, and comment on an article, all to let us know not only how very little he cares for the article, but how much contempt he harbors for those who do care, since he cannot imagine anyone who would. He does so all without the use of letter casing or punctuation, his preference for caps-lock the only indicator of his emotional state — I’m sorry, I mean “thoughts”, since manly anger is not a real emotion. Emotion is a problem of the hysterical, and hysterics require a uterus.

In some cases, “WHO CARES” is his first and only comment on the account, meaning that there was at least one other step in there: Creating an account, if not also verifying it via email.

All to let us know how little he cares.

Really, I love “WHO CARES” Guy. I would moderate a panel entirely comprised of “WHO CARES” Guys. They could escalate their performance of apathy for everyone to enjoy, and scoff at those who vote for them at the end since they are caring about a thing. Maybe I could pit them against the guy who cares so much about the use of the phrase “comprised of” that he created a dedicated Twitter bot to annoy people about it?

The possibilities are endless.

While there are women who extravagantly declare their apathy, the starkness of the sort of  “WHO CARES” messages issued by mostly men reminds me of the way that many men perform ignorance as a way to express indifference for the benefit of people talking about things associated with women and femininity.

Aside from the obvious investment it demonstrates to declare apathy instead of ignoring what doesn’t apply to you, the audacity of publicly declaring your ignorance about something other people clearly know about and enjoy is beyond me. Living in fear of being branded the Fake Geek Girl has left a lot of us non-men in a position where we will feign awareness and quietly look it up later rather than subject ourselves to the pillorying that invariably ensued when we admitted to a male-dominated crowd that we didn’t know about something. The inverse, a man declaring that he knows nothing, especially when it’s about a feminine-coded activity, is almost exalted as an act and defended as an innocent or even positive thing. It’s as though these men feel that they have to weigh in no matter what, and their opinion is always needed and important and above examination even when it adds absolutely nothing to the conversation.

Saying you know nothing about something when no one had asked you to weigh in is useless at best. When unaccompanied by a question, it tends to stem from not-so-neutral motives. It’s a way of saying that the topic has little or no value. That it is frivolous. That you are above it. That others are wasting their time by bothering with it.

I, for one, have become too tired to be magnanimous about people taking up space in conversations that have nothing to do with them by their own admission. Looking the other way or responding with too much kindness hasn’t been as effective as directness. When I used to post about things like makeup, I added a disclaimer at the top practically begging people to refrain from remarking on their own ignorance about the topic — or from giving advice despite of it (which happens quite a bit). I hit my breaking point with a post on translucent/setting powders where I forgot to add the warning and the first comment was essentially “I know nothing about this, and you shouldn’t worry about it because I said so.” After that, I resorted to mockery ranging from gentle ribbing to blunt questions. The result was better conversations for the relevant people, improvements to my block list, and, in the case of at least half a dozen people, a better understanding of why being “WHO CARES” Guy is not exactly an admirable position.

As a general rule, if you are both ignorant of and uninterested in something, your best bet is to ignore conversations about it. If you are interested in yet ignorant of something, your best bet is to pay attention to the conversations of the more-informed and ask specific questions about the aspects of it that confuse you rather than declare your general lack of knowledge. No motive, aside from one of the many that stem from devaluation of the topic at hand paired with an inflated sense of the importance of one’s own opinion, could logically justify performative ignorance.

Main image by osde8info

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That “WHO CARES” Guy: Performative Apathy
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14 thoughts on “That “WHO CARES” Guy: Performative Apathy

      1. Oh, heh. I think I posted that on one of Stephanie’s old blog posts about the same kind of phenomenon — people who declare their lack of allegiance to any stakeholders and continue to beat other people over the head with it. I’m having trouble finding it now.

  1. 3

    yeah, I’ve noticed that when dudes proclaim to be ignorant of something, that functions not as an admission of a “flaw” but as a denigration of the thing they’re ignorant of. they expect their lack if knowledge/interest to reflect badly on the thing, not if themselves; and worse yet, society generally interprets ut that way, further encouraging this behavior

  2. 4

    But… If you didn’t care about stuff you wouldn’t care about stuff, so tautologically the best worldview is slightly fatalistic apathy! /18 year-old me.

    I got better.

  3. 5

    Yeah, these people drive me nuts… My usual response is a sarcastic query about whether they make a point of commenting on everything on the internet they’re not interested in, and how much time they spend on that. Unless it’s an actual friend making the “who cares” comment (e.g. on Facebook), in which case the reply is “I do, dumbass, which is why I’m posting about it.” That usually does the trick… In extreme cases, I have been known to go back through somebody’s timeline and post “who cares” on every post of theirs for the last week or so that I wasn’t interested in at the time.

  4. f.
    6

    Heina, I loved your makeup posts. I hope you’re not doing them any more because your interests have shifted, not because Who Cares Guy took all the fun out of it. But, if it is for that second reason, I get it. 🙁

    Unfortunately I met a Who Cares Guy in person recently, who made fun of me and an acquaintance for “talking about tofu for the last 10 minutes.” We both work as professional cooks, and were having a great time talking about tofu – until he brought it up so rudely. It really did take the wind out of our sails.

  5. 7

    I’m an editor on Wikipedia who focuses on women’s bios, organizations, etc. The kind of commentary you describe above I think is displayed there in a different way by cis white males as “if I haven’t heard of her/it, it’s not important/marginal.” I think it’s related to the I don’t care guy. These people look for ways to delete articles they don’t care about. Thanks for helping me see a connection.

  6. 10

    Yup.

    My brother says “Who cares?” a lot – verbally not online far as I know.

    My now standard response “Plenty of people. There’s always plenty of people who do.”

    Just because something doesn’t interest you or me or anyone, it doesn’t mean its not something good for other people who are interested and yeah, the whole oxymoronic thing of typing “who cares” in online comments thus self-refuting, well, yeck.

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