‘Getting younger and younger’: Alpha male trend rises in kids as social media algorithm targeting exposed

Tileah DobsonNCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

The alarming rise in alpha male culture continues across the country, with one expert seeing Australian boys as young as 11 becoming heavily influenced by the content being promoted on social media.

The “alpha male” is defined by its followers as someone who takes charge, is hyper masculine, with everyone wanting to be him and women wanting to be with him.

A study conducted by the Dublin City University (DCU) showed that social media algorithms are amplifying the notion of male supremacy and misogynistic content.

The researchers made 10 experimental puppet accounts on YouTube and TikTok and found that all of the male-identifying accounts were drowned in anti-feminist, masculinist and extremist content.

Camera IconThe research looked into both TikTok and YouTube. NCA NewsWire / Tim Pascoe Credit: News Corp Australia

This occurred regardless of whether the content was sought out, and the accounts received this within the first 23 minutes of the experiment. If the account showed any interest, the amount of this type of content increased dramatically.

After 400 videos, the study found the majority of the content being pushed to the accounts fell into the manosphere (alpha male and anti-feminist) genre.

Besides the content that promoted the submission of women, anti-equality, male motivation, mental health and money-making, it was found to target boys’ emotional and financial insecurities.

This type of targeting by the algorithm doesn’t come as a surprise to President Australian Association of Psychologists Sahra O’Doherty, who told NewsWire this sort of content played on men’s “insecurity about themselves”.

Teenage Boy Relaxing in his Bedroom
Camera IconPsychologists say they’re seeing a rise in alpha male behaviours in teenage boys. Credit: istock

“What we’re often seeing as psychologists are young men who are feeling quite lost, they don’t feel like they belong or they don’t fit in,” she said.

“Or they’ve had negative experiences with friendship groups or with people that they’re wanting to date, often women, and they feel the need to improve themselves.

“The alpha bro marketing that is being shown to these young men is playing into that idea that if you have this particular product, then you will exceed in the gym and excel at dating and have all of these wonderful things that I’m going to show you in this video.”

Ms O’Doherty works with young men and teens and notes the biggest group she’s seeing this rise in is high school-aged kids.

Psychologist Sahra O'Doherty. Picture: Supplied
Camera IconPsychologist Sahra O'Doherty has seen a rise in alpha males at school. Supplied Credit: Supplied

“I see this a lot in high schoolers and there’s a lot of research around this being quite an issue. It’s often coupled with misogynistic attitudes or pushing those traditional stereotypical gender roles,” she said.

“And it can often result in not engaging in healthy conversations or relationships with young women. And it can in the extremes result in these young men withdrawing from conversations from society.”

What has Ms O’Doherty alarmed is that she’s also seeing the behaviours from boys in primary school.

“It’s getting younger and younger. We’re starting to see that from even late primary school age,” she said.

With how much easy access to the internet kids have these days, it’s not hard for them to see influencers such as Andrew Tate as role models.

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

Controversial influencer Andrew Tate. Twitter
Camera IconControversial influencer Andrew Tate. Twitter Credit: Supplied

“If you scroll through TikTok, or if you scroll through Instagram, there’s a lot of people who tout themselves as being dating coaches or lifestyle coaches. And they really fixate on this idea of hyper masculine, really old school stereotypical views of masculinity.

“And they become this aspirational, almost a role model figure for a lot of these young men. And when they get sucked into that sort of culture, then it can be really problematic to try to extract them from that and help them to work on themselves and their own self esteem.”

Despite social media platforms shutting down and removing the accounts of these type of influencers, the DCU found that it didn’t remove the content itself.

“Our study shows that shutting down influencers’ accounts does not necessarily remove their content,” DCU’s Professor Debbie Ging said.

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

While it’s easy to say social media companies need to control the issue better, Ms O’Doherty recommends parents having “really honest and open conversations” with their kids.

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

“We’re not going to judge them for watching or engaging in the kind of things that they are engaging with, but we do want to discuss maybe some of the messages that they are lapping up when they’re watching these TikToks.”

Originally published as ‘Getting younger and younger’: Alpha male trend rises in kids as social media algorithm targeting exposed

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