The "Manosphere" Is Sucking In Men Who Feel More Disconnected Than Ever
Men of all ages are feeling disconnected from their peers. And they’re turning to some not-so-great comfort.
A sobering new study shows that American men are facing a crisis, and many are finding solace in harmful online communities that preach misogyny and anti-feminist ideology.
Equimundo, a non-profit working to prevent gender violence, break down harmful stereotypes, and encourage men to become allies in the gender and racial equality movements, surveyed 2,022 men aged 18-45 in the U.S. to determine how men are doing as a whole during a period of paradigm shifts. The picture isn’t pretty.
Among the most troubling findings was that a majority of men in all age groups except those 38-45 are lonely and feel isolated. Fifty-nine percent of men between 31 and 37 reported feeling that “no one really knows me well,” and 43% met the standard for depression and reported suicidal ideation in the previous two weeks.
Forty percent of all participants, regardless of age group, said they “trust one or more ‘men’s rights,’ anti-feminist, or pro-violence voices from the manosphere.” The “manosphere,” a group of online communities that include men’s rights activists, include influencers like Andrew Tate and Jordan Peterson, and groups like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, Men Going Their Own Way, and A Voice For Men. These influencers feature prominently in many men’s lives.
These groups and influencers have earned reputations as far-right extremist voices that use misogynistic, racist rhetoric to blame women and minorities for the struggles men face in today’s more progressive social and political climate. These groups and ideologies are growing more popular among a certain demographic of men every day.
For example, former University of Toronto Psych professor Jordan Peterson has built a YouTube empire of 6 million followers while proposing ideas like “enforced monogamy” to solve the problem of incel violence toward women, comparing gender-affirming care to Nazi death camp experiments, and that the feminist movement’s goal is to achieve “brutal male domination.”
Equimundo’s study comes on the heels of the U.S. surgeon general naming loneliness an epidemic in the U.S. As part of his advisory report, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy provided 6 pillars to address the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation in the U.S., one of which is to address the increasing influence of technology and social media in our lives. Murthy advocates for increased social connection as a way to combat violence.
“Our fundamental human need for belonging is so strong that we may seek it out even in ways that may be unhealthy to ourselves or to our broader community. This can include participation in gangs and joining extremist or other harmful groups,” Murthy wrote. “Our natural tendency to associate with those most like us can be manipulated, with potentially negative consequences for individual and community well-being. When there are scarce resources, this can also lead to competition among various groups, leading to an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality.”
This mentality can lead to community and domestic violence, and this “us” versus “them” mentality that “manosphere” influencers have built their platforms on.
To help American men heal so we can build a stronger, more cohesive America for the future, changes should occur at every level — governmental policy, education, ads and marketing, and digital spaces, including gaming and porn.
“As seen in our findings, men need support to step into the discomfort and confusion that is required to embrace and live healthier, connected versions of manhood,” wrote the study authors.
“We can and must put out [the] word that each and every man is needed, by those they care about most, for the world to be a place of justice, equity, and equality. Men need a much clearer, prouder message about what it means to be strong and whole, about the historic goodness of women, men, and individuals of all genders, and about young men’s necessary role in our changing society.”