June 28, 2024

Growing Up Misogynistic: How Social Media Algorithms Are Changing Young Men

More than half of young men (13-25) are exposed to the effects of misogynistic content on social media, whether directly or indirectly through their social circles.

Trigger Warning: This blog discusses topics related to misogyny and its effects, including mentions of violence and explicit content. Reader discretion is advised.

Part 1: The Algorithmic Trap

Question: Are young men being bombarded with misogynistic content on social media, and is this trend causing a disturbing societal shift?

Social media algorithms are known to be wired to make users engage with the platform. That means it shows you popular content, which you might have a better chance of liking depending on your age, gender and friends. With the increasing popularity of 'red pill' content that propagates hate towards women, and the global influence of figures like Andrew Tate who promote such messages, this type of content is reportedly appearing on the social media discovery feeds of a significant number of young men. We conducted a survey on Glimpse with 200 male respondents aged 13-25 to understand the extent of this trend and its implications.

Which of these influencers have you seen on your social media feed before? Choose all that apply.

'Red pill' content, a term borrowed from "The Matrix" to signify a supposed awakening to harsh truths, often includes misogynistic and anti-feminist rhetoric. This content is crafted to appeal to young men by playing on their insecurities and frustrations, offering a sense of belonging and validation while giving harmful advice on men’s role in society. There appears to be a surge in influencers who promote this rhetoric, specifically targeting young men.

How frequently do you come across influencers that give advice about the role of men in society?

While young men recognize the harm social media can cause, many still view their interactions as neutral, detached from their personal perspectives and mental states. Turns out more than half of young men (13-25) are exposed to the effects of misogynistic content on social media, whether directly or indirectly through their social circles. 35% of our respondents admitted that they have been personally influenced by misogynistic or hateful content on social media, and 17% state that they personally know someone who has been influenced. And when we asked ‘how’ these were some of the answers:

They have been more close-minded with women who we don’t know. Has started to call themself a “high-value-male” which wouldnt be the worst if he didnt act like he was above everyone and everything.

Adopting some beliefs of Andrew Tate but slowing down on that after the human trafficking stuff.

The type of content he consumed changed and he was more hateful toward female members of the family.

He changed and started being harsh towards women. Although I believe social media wasn't the only influence he had for that change.

I’m a misogynist.

My cousin consumed a great deal of this content, and I noticed his views on women took a drastic turn.

My friend killed herself because of it. Her husband began to abuse her bc it’s what those people said.

I've gotten stronger, more open minded and it helped me grow as a person.

Social media algorithms are a double edged sword. On one hand, they keep users engaged by showing them content they are likely to interact with. On the other hand, this leads to a feedback loop where users are continuously exposed to the same type of content, reinforcing their existing beliefs and biases. For young men, this often means a steady diet of misogynistic content, which can shape their views and attitudes towards women in profoundly negative ways.

Part 2: The Cognitive Dissonance

Let’s converse with the data on the Glimpse platform for further insights: What is the most unique insight about this research?

The most unique insight about this research on the "Social Media Impact on Young Men" survey seems to be the apparent dichotomy between personal experiences of social media's negative impact and the overall perception of its effects. While a considerable number of respondents have been personally influenced by misogynistic or hateful content (17.5%, 35 individuals) or know someone who has (37%, 74 individuals), there is still a large percentage that believes they are unaffected by it, with 44% (88 individuals) stating that social media posts about men's roles in society do not influence their mindset.

This cognitive dissonance suggests that young men may not fully recognize the impact of the content they consume, maintaining a belief in their immunity to these influences. Psychologically speaking, consuming one type of content repeatedly can significantly impact your views and beliefs. Cultivation theory suggests that long term exposure to specific media content shapes perceptions of reality, while confirmation bias reinforces preexisting beliefs by favoring supportive information. Meanwhile desensitization reduces emotional responsiveness to repeated stimuli, normalizing harmful actions. So, media consumption has always played, and continues to play a powerful role in shaping individual and societal beliefs.

Chat with persona - 22 year old male from the South

Chat with persona - 22 year old male from the South

Part 3: Looking Ahead

40% of young men reported that social media affected their mental health very negatively (12%) and somewhat negatively (28%). When we filter down to young men whose mental health has been affected somewhat negatively by social media, the top 3 types of content most beneficial for their mental health are reported to be: fitness and health tips, mental health awareness and support, and educational content.

When respondents were asked if they think social media platforms are doing enough to protect young users from harmful content, 51% agreed they need to do more. Perhaps the way this question was shaped gave space to respondents to detach themselves from the equation and allowed empathy for how it affected younger people in society as a whole. The two big reasons mentioned repeatedly were; easily accessible violent and pornographic content.

I saw things on social media when I was young that I didn't want to see.

Because every kid says they have seen too much.

I still see graphic content that really should violate community guidelines but doesn’t apparently.

I've seen too many kids safety put at risk too many times. It's a serious problem that has not been fixed.

When asked about the New York State bill to “ban addictive social media algorithms for kids,” there were mixed reactions. 14% were extremely supportive of the bill, 33% were somewhat supportive, 30% were undecided, 19% were somewhat against, and 5% were extremely against the bill. Some respondents expressed opposition to censorship, while others emphasized that social media should not consume children’s lives. It’s clear that there is a growing concern about the impact of social media addiction on the younger generation and a strong desire to protect their well being, but is it possible to reverse the damage that has been already done?

According to Glimpse AI, a multi-faceted approach involving education, regulation, mental health support, and community programs that promote healthy social interactions and conflict resolution skills can help undo some of the behavioral damage. It is essential to encourage positive usage habits and address adverse effects.

At Glimpse, we specialize in delivering comprehensive market research insights that help you understand complex issues and make informed decisions. Reach out to Glimpse today to learn how we can take your market research to the next level and empower your business with actionable intelligence.