Social media: Experts seeing alpha male behaviours in 11 year olds

The worrying rise of alpha male culture continues across the country, with one expert observing that Australian boys as young as 11 are heavily influenced by the content shared on social media.

The “alpha male” is defined by his followers as someone who takes the lead, is hypermasculine, everyone wants to be like him and everyone wants to be with him.

A study by Dublin City University (DCU) showed that social media algorithms reinforce feelings of male superiority and misogynistic content.

The researchers created ten experimental puppet accounts on YouTube and TikTok and found that all accounts identified as male were flooded with anti-feminist, masculinist and extremist content.

This happened regardless of whether the content was searched for, and accounts received it within the first 23 minutes of the experiment. If the account showed interest, the amount of that type of content increased dramatically.

After 400 videos, the study found that the majority of the content pushed to the accounts fell into the “manosphere” (alpha male and anti-feminism) category.

In addition to content promoting female subjugation, gender equality, male motivation, mental health and money-making, the programs also targeted boys’ emotional and financial insecurity.

For the president of the Australian Association of Psychologists, Sahra O’Doherty, this targeted targeting by the algorithm comes as no surprise. She told NewsWire that this type of content exploits men’s “insecurity about themselves”.

“As psychologists, we often see young men who feel quite lost, who feel like they don’t belong or don’t fit in,” she said.

“Or they have had negative experiences with friend groups or with people they want to date (often women), and they feel the need to improve.

“The alpha bro marketing that is being offered to these young men is the idea that with this special product they will excel in the gym, shine in dating, and have all these wonderful things that I’m going to show them in this video.”

Ms. O’Doherty works with young men and teenagers and notes that the largest group in which she is seeing this increase are high school-aged children.

“I see this a lot with high school students and there’s a lot of research that shows it’s quite a problem. It’s often linked to misogynistic attitudes or the promotion of traditional, stereotypical gender roles,” she said.

“And it can often lead to not having healthy conversations or not cultivating relationships with young women. And in extreme cases, it can lead to these young men withdrawing from social conversations.”

What worries Ms O’Doherty is that she also observes the behaviour among boys in primary school.

“The children are getting younger and younger. We can see this starting from late primary school age,” she said.

Given the easy access to the Internet that children have today, it is not difficult for them to see influencers like Andrew Tate as role models.

“It’s this aspirational image of people like Andrew Tate, where you see someone you perceive as successful or wealthy or good-looking, surrounded by women or nice cars,” Ms O’Doherty said.

“If you scroll through TikTok or Instagram, you’ll find a lot of people touting themselves as dating coaches or lifestyle coaches. And they really fixate on this idea of ​​hypermasculine, really old-fashioned, stereotypical views of masculinity.

“And they become this ambitious, almost role model figure for many of these young men. And when they get sucked into that kind of culture, it can be really problematic to try to pull them out of it and help them work on themselves and their self-esteem.”

Although social media platforms closed and deleted the accounts of these types of influencers, the DCU found that it had not removed the content itself.

“Our study shows that closing influencers’ accounts does not necessarily lead to the removal of their content,” said Professor Debbie Ging of DCU.

“The overwhelming presence of Andrew Tate content in our dataset at a time when he was deplatformed means social media companies need to combat harmful content in more sophisticated ways.”

While it’s easy to say that social media companies need to do better to control the problem, Ms O’Doherty recommends parents have “really honest and open conversations” with their children.

“When we have these conversations, we can talk about the things they might be exposed to on social media without fear of judgment,” she said.

“We’re not going to judge them for watching or participating in things, but we might want to talk about some of the messages they’re absorbing when they watch these TikToks.”

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