It’s not often that I have an emotional reaction over an article about social media (in this case anger and confusion). As an active user of almost all of the major platforms, I enjoy reading news, opinions, and other articles about social media. However, Mashable’s article titled “Should Men Quit Facebook? Brut’s ‘Mantervention’ App Says Yes” is more ignorant than it is informative.
The rather short article begins with “Let’s face it, posting stuff on Facebook isn’t the most macho pursuit in the world. So, if you’re of the male persuasion and fear that the social platform is making you soft, you might want to avail yourself of Brut’s latest Facebook app”. The assumption that sharing information on Facebook degrades one’s level of masculinity is a concept that I find particularly interesting. In Chapter one of Nancy K. Baym’s book Personal Connections in the Digital Age she writes, “more [American] men than woman use the internet (81 percent vs. 77 percent)” according to a 2009 survey. However, in the years that have past since the survey was done, it seems that women are much more likely to be engaged in social media sites, making up 64% of Facebook’s users (HuffingtonPost). However, the article doesn’t just make the claim that using social networking sites is something that men should “quit” because it is feminine, it highlights another interesting Baym concept: technological determinism.
The article continues:
The deodorant maker’s app is basically a 5-minute or so video in which a stubbly guy berates you and some of your posts. The interactive aspect comes via the magic of profile access, a trick we’ve seen many times before — such as this True Blood teaser starring you and your Facebook friends.
To underscore his point, the Mantervention man makes his pitch in a room full of stereotypical Facebookers — such as The Networker, Hashtag Harry, Mr. TMI, the Philosopher and “Sign My Petition” Chick.
Whether the app will convince you to quit Facebook is one thing. Whether it will persuade you to buy Brut’s grooming products is another. After all, the brand faces some pretty stiff competition on the social media front from Old Spice.
Can an app (technology) be so convincing that it persuades us to cancel our relationship with another technology (Facebook)? And what exactly is a stereotypical Facebook user? The application and the article manage to stuff all users of the technology into sexist and degrading stereotypes , and in doing so give us, the users, no agency into our personality types on the social networking site. It’s as if the creator of the app and the author of the article agree that Facebook has taken away any and all agency of its users, and the we are simply personality clones that fit into boxes that Facebook has built. Are we so easily gullible to “cool” technology that we would be swayed by it, or is the app simply reinforcing Facebook’s power by playing off the fact that it’s so difficult to truly abandon Facebook for good?
I downloaded the application and allowed it to have permission to access all of my information. The app was funny, relatable, and had its moment of blatant sarcasm. However, I couldn’t tell if it was poking fun of the concept of IRL masculinity, or if it was being completely honest with its intention to call user’s out on their lack of traditional masculine tendencies on social media.
To add another dimension of complexity, it should be reiterated that this application…which is an advertisement for male grooming products…that has been approved by Facebook… has to be installed onto a male Facebook users page…then opened…which leads the user into a five minute argument with an unshaved male spectator that mocks all your activities that you’ve taken part of recently Facebook. The app (WHICH FACEBOOK APPROVED!) mocks your likes, your photos, and your relationship status. In danah m. boyd and Nicole B. Ellison’s essay “Social Networking Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship”, they claim that the inclusion of applications like Brut’s are the reason why Facebook’s popularity exploded. They write, “Another feature that differentiates Facebook is the ability for outside developers to build ‘‘Applications’’ which allow users to personalize their profiles and perform other tasks, such as compare movie preferences and chart travel histories”. What does it say about the state of social media when the applications that once helped Facebook gain users is now telling them to leave? Especially the users that Facebook clearly needs to attract more of, males. Do all the notions of “friendship”, “community”, and “belonging” in social media that have been brought up in our assignments this week lend themselves to a predominately female user base?
Overall, after downloading the app and reading this article I felt confused about the state of the web and the notion that masculinity and online openness are mutually exclusive. Download the app yourself and see how you feel about it.