Boys Will Be Boys

The Rise Of The Lowercase Boys

All confidence, no caps: This is the new reality women are facing in their DMs.

In the wild, ever-evolving ecosystem of modern dating, I’ve recently spotted a new Type of Guy. At first blush, he looks like many species who’ve come before him — Podcast Bro, CrossFitter, Man with Mustache — but he’s developed a style of communication all his own. “lol this is too good,” he writes in response to your story; “was so fun hanging out with you,” he messages a day too late. Staccato, lacking in proper punctuation, and almost completely void of capitalization. This is the Lowercase Boy.

I’m not the only one who’s seen him in the wild. Increasingly, a man’s decision to type in lowercase is read as shorthand for a larger set of character traits. “If a guy texts me in lowercase, I’m going to assume he’s been ran through,” Crystal*, a 30-year-old who herself types in lowercase, tells me. “They do it because they think a girl will find it cute, flirty, or attractive. If a guy is thinking that much, that’s nefarious and they are likely some of the biggest f*ckboys.” Jordan, 31, similarly sees “Lowercase Boys” as walking red flags — especially because an ex of hers, whom she dumped after discovering he had four other girlfriends, was one of them. “He was obsessed with The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and of course, was a Francophile. He would say this out loud,” she says. The no-caps texts were just a part of his act: “It’s a calculated, and exhausting, attempt to be casual that actually shows all the insecurity behind those tiny little letters.”

The phenomenon of typing in lowercase isn’t exactly a new one. Anyone who lived through the T9 keyboard era can tell you that all texts were once lowercase by necessity. (We did what we could with just nine buttons.) And as Y2K nostalgia has begun to crest, lowercase has also seen a resurgence… particularly among those who didn’t come of age pre-iPhone. “I noticed it gradually, only with new people I was meeting from dating apps, once I started broadening my age range to dip lower than 30,” says Sable, 37. This slow change echoes a trend in music that dates as far back as 2019, when pop stars like Ariana Grande, and later, Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, and Olivia Rodrigo began stylizing their tracklists sans caps. This led to the rise of “Lowercase Girls,” as described in a 2021 NPR article: “We are the antithesis of thirst, having been terrorized by love lost so many times that we can no longer bear to even seem like we care enough to text you with proper capitalization.” Yet when men employ this style, many believe it signifies something else entirely.

“It’s a calculated, and exhausting, attempt to be casual that actually shows all the insecurity behind those tiny little letters.”

Chris M., who almost always goes no caps, found this out the hard way. “Before I met my wife, I definitely had initial encounters with women where we’d start texting, and upon seeing lowercase texts, they’d react with some joking or flirting variation of ‘Oh, you’re one of those boys,’” he says. “I think culturally it’s taken on some meaning of aggressive casualness, whatever that may imply, [but] I think texting is inherently unserious enough that I’m comfortable owning that.” On the other hand, some men concede that they did start typing in lowercase to win someone over — to be one of those boys. Josh is one of them. “I have found that it comes across much less guarded to girls and subsequently more flirty, fun, open, and safe,” he tells me via an email written entirely in lowercase. He admits that not every girl purports to be into it. “One girl that I randomly matched with on Hinge a few years ago commented on it being ‘creepy’ and ‘gross’ but also exclusively used the lowercase keyboard. She also had asked me on a date three different times, so if I’m keeping this fully transparent, my read is that was her way of flirting back. Whatever I was doing was working, sooooo…”

Initially, Canyon also started forgoing caps as a way to better convey himself to women. “I’m in my late 20s, and I was talking to a girl in her early 20s, and it just felt weird not to type in lowercase because she was doing it. I wanted to match her energy,” he says. Though their relationship didn’t last, the habit remained. “I’m very intentional with my lowercase; I certainly don’t type lowercase to my mom, but I do with my boss, only because he does. I feel like it’s half the energy of the person and half the object of the situation. Like I try not to with my main friend group, because I fear their mockery.”

For many, mockery is the correct response to a Lowercase Boy. “It’s giving beta. It’s signaling ‘I’m in touch with my emotions; I’m approachable [and] nonthreatening,’” How Long Gone co-host Chris Black says of what he calls an “obvious move.” Comedian Mary Beth Barone, who runs the Instagram account @draghisass, argues that lowercasers of all genders deserve ridicule. “This is the person who will fall asleep in the middle of making plans with you and think nothing of it. This is the person who will DM you a meme when they haven’t texted you back. This is the person who will ask you ‘What are u up to this weekend’ instead of ‘Do you want to hang out this weekend?’” she says. (Barone doesn’t have the data just yet, but she believes it’s out there: “I’d love to see a scientific study on the correlation of all of these traits but maybe only once we’ve cured cancer and successfully slowed global warming.”)

“It’s giving beta. Its signaling ‘I’m in touch with my emotions; I’m approachable [and] nonthreatening.’”

Interestingly, the data we do have indicates that post-#MeToo, men have become much more cautious of the ways they communicate with women, particularly when it comes to the kinds of jokes they’re likely to tell. It follows that men would also change the way they express themselves over text.

While the lowercase move is undoubtedly a contrived one — you don’t just wake up one day having unlearned proper grammar, and your iPhone certainly doesn’t turn autocaps off on its own — some argue it’s not always as “nefarious” as it might seem. Michelle McSweeney, an adjunct assistant professor at City University of New York’s Graduate Center who wrote her dissertation on text messaging, argues that it’s an easy way to signify closeness or intimacy. “It says, ‘Hey, I’m close enough to you to be texting you very colloquially, very casually,’” she says. “A big thing that lowercase can do in text messaging is say ‘You’re someone that I trust so I’ve let myself be a little bit vulnerable around you.’”

Some of the women I spoke with found no caps to have neutral-to-positive signifiers as well — even Giliann (@whoreby_parker), who recently addressed the Lowercase Boy phenomenon in a viral post on X (“That man with autocaps off will not provide for you. He can still take me to drinks though.”). “I think it shows a certain level of ‘being online,’ which is something I really look for,” she says. “I need someone who picks up on my references and can riff with me. I’ve dated guys who don’t understand my references, and it just doesn’t work out.”

And just like memes and internet jokes and online slang (it’s “ijbol” now?), styles of text communication are also always changing. Love the Lowercase Boy or not, rest assured: His reign will not last forever.

Sable, for one, hopes the pendulum will swing all the way back to all-caps. “I’m hoping all this ‘feral-girl this’ and ‘rat-girl that’ will encourage girls to really indulge that shift key,” she says. “Time to start yelling into people’s eyes!”

*First names used for anonymity.