This Charlottean watched an online troll attack, and decided enough was enough.
He’s so nice, you can’t blame him for not wanting to have his real name in print.
In fact, you can’t even be mad at him for not wanting to meet in person for this story, but instead to be interviewed online, at night, after his work commitments are through and his kids are in bed.
Because he’s “Supportive Guy” (@supportivedude), arguably one of the friendliest, most smile-inducing people on Twitter; the happy pill to what is so often the social-media anger-fest.
Every day, sometimes 30 times a day, from his Charlotte home or office, he sends a cheery tweet out to the universe, tiptoeing the fine line between sarcastic and saccharine.
Sometimes, it’s directed at one person in particular:
Sometimes, it’s for everyone in his feed:
Is he serious? Seems so.
But also trying to be funny? Definitely.
“SG,” as he refers to himself, says he’s a normal guy with a wife, two young kids and an office job in the retail sector, who got a little frustrated last spring while checking Twitter during one of the Hornets playoff games.
“I saw someone I follow dealing with an Internet troll. This person was just coming at him with this angry and unprovoked vitriol,” he says. “I wondered to myself what the counterpoint to this kind of online behavior would be. I started the account in that moment on a whim. … I like simplicity, so I just named it Supportive Guy.” (The handle @supportiveguy was already taken, he says, so he went with @supportivedude.)
Read his tweets, and the voice in your head sounds like Mister Rogers: soft and friendly, and spoken with an audible smile. He says he imagines himself sounding like “the classic ‘NPR voice.’ ”
Summers are light in his particular job, so he says he says he’s had time to craft his Supportive Guy persona since launching it in April. And while his following has grown modestly (he had about 820 followers at press time), he’s looking at starting a daily minute-long podcast later this year that will include “regular people” guests, he says.
He makes no bones about it – Supportive Guy is definitely a character, who lays the support on thick to elicit smiles. But he says slipping into the Twitter role doesn’t require too much of a personality transformation – plus, it fulfills his yearning to be more creative and offers an outlet for his love of words, which he doesn’t get to use creatively at work. He says he blogged for a website last year and recently started a personal blog that’s “very different from SG.”
In an attention-seeking world, why would he be anonymous?
“Because I think it’s best that it’s its own entity. I’m not looking for any recognition or to drive traffic to anything else I might do in the future,” he says. “I also got some advice from a trusted source to keep the mystery.
“No one would be surprised I would or could do something like this. They would be surprised it’s taken off like it has,” he says. “I’m affable, but also introverted outside of my immediate circle. I would say the tweets come easily but I don’t necessarily regard them as great tweets. Some are better than others. There are so many people that are better than me at Twitter, but I’m happy to have my little niche.”
His wife says they were both surprised when the account started to get followers. He’s a positive and genuinely nice guy in real life, she says, and some days he texts her amusing Twitter messages from his followers.
“I think when you have positive correspondence with people all day – even when you don’t see their faces – it can’t help but make you a happier person,” she says. “Even if this doesn’t last, I can see he’s had fun with this.”
While his whole endeavor started on a whim and remains a fun side note to his daily life, research says SG is onto something with his social media-positivity mission.
Facebook and university researchers in 2014 tinkered with algorithms to see if filling newsfeeds with happy or negative posts influenced whether users wrote more happy or sad posts. The short answer: it did.
Perhaps, then, Supportive Guy really can sweet-talk his way into more pleasant online discourse?
“I’ve always thought that people should behave in a more civil fashion,” he says. “Online anonymity seems to bring out the worst in some people. I try to indulge the good feelings I have about people and life the way trolls ... seem to indulge their anger.”
Each day, SG says he checks his feed to “see if there’s a tweet to work with. Someone having a bad day, someone wanting to be wished luck, that kind of thing. I try to mix it up and not tweet at someone too much. ‘Spread the support around,’ I always say. That’s actually the first time saying it, but I think it often.”
Groups or individuals tweet at him daily, asking for a word of encouragement.
He says his best Twitter conversation happened in May: an exchange with New Yorker TV critic (and 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner) Emily Nussbaum, one of his favorite writers and Twitter personalities. “Her responses to the SG routine were brilliant and hilarious and threw me off balance.”
So does being the world’s most supportive dude rub off in the real world?
“I will say I think I’m quicker to wish a passing stranger a good day since I’ve started the account,” he says. “I’ll be honest, I’m kind of addicted to being SG. It’s unbelievably fun.
“I hope people get a kick out of the account. Early on someone sent me a picture of a rainbow they took on their way home from work. That people have those moments and send them to me, I mean, who would want anything more than that?”