Monday, March 14, 2011

5 Things Social Media Tells Us About Men

So I've been reading Good Men Project a lot this week and came across this little gem. I have a bit of hobby of reading lists like this. Sometimes they are worthless. Sometimes they are useful. Sometimes they are just entertaining. Check this one out. Apparently social media has revealed 5 things about men.

1. 120 characters is a lot more comfortable than group therapy.

Men are famous for not reading, not emoting, and being unwilling to talk. But social media has created a comfort zone where men communicate about things they might not otherwise. What that tells us is that men are actually more complex and more feeling than we are given credit for, as the safety of technology and the tweet frees us from our usual caveman-like grunts. Daddy bloggers swap stories about changing diapers, men actually exchange dating advice, and men talk about books—albeit in headline tweet format. Perhaps men are deeper than we let on.
In my relatively small time blogging and participating in discussions on other people's blogs I wonder if social media in and of itself is a form of group therapy. A lot of people tend to be more open when they are in the company of similar people.

Well given that social media by definition is a way for people to connect it makes sense that men would start to get together and share things that they may not (or may not be able to) share with other people. I think men have been complex creatures for a long time. Its just that by connecting through social media we've crossed paths with other men that have felt like we weren't allowed to explore our complexities. so give it up for social media I suppose.

2. The baboon brain is still alive and well.

At our worst, men are thought of as not being very advanced from baboons in our focus on sexual encounters and inability to commit to a single mate. The dirty little secret about social media is that it is driven in large part by—you guessed it—sexual content. The Huffington Post, Gawker, and any number of other supposedly thoughtful information sites drive traffic via veiled and not-so-veiled porn. The appetite for self-pleasure with electronic images is the biggest entertainment industry there is, and the web certainly is our biggest provider. In theory, social media could also lead to actual physical cheating through Match.com, the increasingly popular Facebook dating applications like AreYouInterested and WouldYouSleepWithMe, and extramarital hookup sites such as AshleyMadison.com.

But most guys just use their baboon brains to fantasize about women other than their wives or girlfriends. To each his own, but to my way of thinking, it’s pretty much the biggest waste of time going. Still, social media has greatly accelerated the addictive elements of sexual fantasy and porn.

Wow. Baboon brains? While I'm all for the theory of evolution I'm just not much of a fan of pulling out the animal name calling. Now I will say that social media has become a major way to use the internet to spread porn and fantasy. But I find it interesting that this only brings up negatives like cheating. No comment on men that may have used social media as a way to explore their sexuality in positive ways? (Side note: The one person on my Twitter feed that talks about sex is a woman)

3. We are OCD to the max

BlackBerries, iPhones, iPads, Kindles, and laptops tether us to yet another repetitive behavior that leads to little if any real benefit, but engages us over and over again nevertheless. How many guys have you seen at the dinner table, the playground—even at their kid’s musical recital—checking their tweets? I am not proud of it, but I plead guilty to waking up in the middle of the night, grabbing my iPhone and taking it into the bathroom to take a leak. Standing at three in the morning at the toilet, maintaining aim and simultaneously checking Twitter, Facebook, email, and The New York Times feeds is something I have perfected. I know I am not alone.

Perhaps the writer here thinks this phenomenon is unique to men or something.

4. It’s all about sports

When we are not looking at porn, we are talking about sports. Sports radio was a great advance in mankind. Online sports betting (first the NCAA tourney pool and then fantasy football) brought action into our man caves. But for the sports fanatics out there, which is pretty much all of us, social media is the engine we’ve been looking for. Blogs, sites like Deadspin.com, countless chat rooms, and the granddaddy of them all—ESPN.com—feed the male sports soul like nothing before. Sports talk, tweet, and fantasy are what we guys have been looking for to fill the cracks in our day-to-day existence.
The fact that the athletes themselves have their own Twitter streams is just icing on the cake. What would I do without having constant access to @THE_REAL_SHAQ?

Funny. I'm starting to wonder if this writer is just pulling out stereotypes, finding some social media representations of them, and throwing them up. (Side note: I don't have any sports feeds on my Twitter account and I actually have more women talking about sports on my Facebook feed than men.)

5. Men want to connect—we just don’t know how

The most important thing social media tells us about manhood in 2011 is that we desire to connect with each other and with the opposite sex in meaningful ways. The amazing thing about Twitter and Facebook is that they offer the ability to connect with people with common interests all over the world. One of my best friends is a blues philosopher from Reno, Nevada, named Todd Mauldin. I have never met him in the flesh, but through social media, I know about his deepest challenges and successes. We originally met on Facebook. Since that time he has sent me his music and videos, and we’ve exchanged long emails where we have each spilled our guts.

This may sound like Oprah for guys, but it is not. The tone of the discussions between me and Todd—and with the other men I know through social media—is uniquely male. We talk and share our emotions using vocabulary and an approach that is completely different from that of women.

Another close friend I have never met other than electronically is Michael Kamber, one of the most celebrated New York Times war photographers. He shares with me what it is really like to be on the front lines in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan, in real time. I often ask him about something I have read in the papers, and he tells me a story that either refutes or confirms what I have read.

More often than not, when Michael messages me to tell me what it is like to watch men saving a civilian baby or getting their arms blown off or dying in their comrades’ arms, I have tears in my eyes. These are the images in words and pictures that even the Times will not publish but that I have access to because of social media. I am connected to Michael and the men on the ground in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without social media. And I am a better man for it.

Now there's a lot going on here. At first I want to just say "sad but true" but that's not deep enough.

In the second paragraph Tom talks about uniquely male communication and it being different from how women communicate. I get the feeling Tom is talking about how the majority of male communication that is prevalent today just does not resonate with him. And through social media he has managed to find other men like him and a way to communicate with them in a way that actually does resonate with him. But like the third point above I highly doubt that this unique to men. I'd bet there are a lot of women whom Oprah does not resonate with.

In the end I'd say Tom's list is a mixed bag of useful insight and goals and gender essentialism that borders on dismissive misandry. What do you think?

2 comments:

Titfortat said...

Danny

Do you actually allow yourself to be informed about yourself by social media?

Danny said...

Of course not. I was surfing the net, came across something I had a mixed reaction about, and decided to share mixed reaction. That's all.

Social media is only a tool. A tool for communication and finding things you may not have otherwise found (and I'm not mistaken I first found GoodMenProject through Twitter). I still take the time to read what I find and form my own conclusions though.

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