What is a softboi? You might be dating one – and you don't even know it

“I don’t deal in base desires such as social media. I pursue beautiful women and even more beautiful poetry.”

“I feel like I’ve dreamt of you in colors that don’t exist.”

“My parents live in Hoxton. But I live in the moment.”

If you’ve ever sent or received a message similar to this, you may already know what a softboi is. If not, you’re probably thinking it’s a meaningless new dating term I’ve just made up (after all, I’ve done it before). But you’d be wrong.

Softboi behaviour is nothing new, but the term itself has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years. The most notable example in recent popular culture can be found in Kyle Scheible, the love interest played by Timothée Chalamet in Lady Bird. As well as playing bass in a band called L’Enfance Nue, he has lines such as “What you do is very baller. You’re very anarchist.”

To learn more – and see just how extensive the trend is – the Instagram page Beam Me Up Soft Boi is the best available resource. It has amassed more than 200,000 followers since being set up last year to document softbois, and receives up to 300 submissions a day. I spoke to Iona, who runs the account and recently wrote an A to Z guide to softbois, to get to the bottom of it.

Hi Iona. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, what is a softboi?

There’s a softboi spectrum. At one end, it’s just anyone who has any unique or alternative interests that make them feel superior to other people. At the other end is quite hardcore emotionally manipulative men who use these interests to really mess about with women or men. But there’s so many people in between on the spectrum so there’s no one real definition.

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What are three terms you’d use to describe a softboi?

Alternative. Superiority complex. Emotionally exploitative.

You can assign those qualities to a lot of people, but you’re saying it’s the alternativeness that gives the bois their soft edge?

Yeah, exactly. Softbois have alternative interests and come across like they’re being very open about their emotions, which is a really good thing for men to do. But it then twists into “and you should therefore sleep with me because of this”.

Another common thing with softbois is that they turn quite emotionally messed up when they get rejected. For example: one guy [featured on the account] messaged a girl on Tinder saying “don’t be sad life is wonderful”, and when she didn’t reply he wrote “lol you must be one of those emotionally distraught women who hasn’t figured out their purpose yet”.

But still, how do you tell the difference between a softboi and someone who is in touch with their feelings, and genuinely into “non-mainstream” things?

The difference between the softboi and a decent guy who’s in touch with his emotions – and may just have a passing interest in Lou Reed – is that the softboi would try to lord his nicheness over people. They have blind faith that the people they want to impress will fall at their feet simply because they’re different, and if they don’t he will likely throw his toys out of the pram.

What’s the best example of a softboi that you’ve been sent?

This is the most softboi series of messages I have ever seen.

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He says he’s an outsider, which is straightaway a softboi move. But he doesn’t enjoy Shrek because there are much better films. That’s obvious, isn’t it? And then “please tell me you’ve watched Pulp Fiction” is just the greatest sentence ever.

Is there a female equivalent to a softboi?

There’s definitely such a thing as a softgirl, and people always tell me to set up an account for them, but I’m not sure it would be as funny. If someone sent me a really funny screenshot from a girl I’d post it and say it’s a girl. That’s why I spelt it boi not boy, because it can be fluid. But also, a soft girl already sort of exists in the form of a manic pixie dream girl.

Hypothetically speaking, if I was now terrified that I’m a softboi, how would I know? Is there a checklist I can look at to find out?

– Do you have the name of a band in your dating app bio?

– Have you had a pair of Vans or Dr Martens that you’ve treated like children and tell everyone how you’ve had them for years?

– Do you exclusively shop at Urban Outfitters?

– Do you find yourself ranting about how terrible your life is to someone you’re trying to pursue and saying “but you can help me feel better”?

– Have you ever asked someone back to your flat under the premise of taking “artistic” photos with your 35mm?

– Is your ideal woman a manic pixie dream girl?

– Do you romanticise drug use? (“Can we sniff lines and watch The Notebook?” is a real message featured by the account)

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What’s your advice to someone dating a softboi?

Think: is it worth it? You know, if he keeps bringing up Thom Yorke while you’re trying to have sex. There are plenty of boys who aren’t softbois who you can go for but, that said, there are also plenty of softbois who are harmless and really great, so don’t worry too much.


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