February 12, 2021 - Podcast

Episode 90—Masculinity, and social media

Notions of masculinity are often introduced within families at an early age, shaping men’s beliefs about what it means to be a man. This idea may transfer from the home to the university setting and can influence how men interact with and succeed at their academic institutions. A recent study by IU Professor Oscar E. Patrón and Fernando Rodriguez examined how notions of masculinity influence the ways that undergraduate gay Latinos connect with university staff and faculty. The researchers found that gay men established connections with faculty and staff within the boundaries of academic topics, but with minimal depth beyond that, to avoid revealing their sexualities. Additionally, women in faculty and staff roles served as points of connection beyond academic support. Patrón says it was in these relationships that participants expressed feeling like they could be vulnerable and open to expressing emotions they were conditioned to internalize—especially in front of men. Finally, the study found that participants also resisted developing connections with staff and faculty, limiting their interactions and contact. Patrón says his study provides insights into the ways Latino constructions of masculinities primarily learned at home shape Latino men's campus experiences. Notably, participants most commonly described embodying masculinity through self-sufficiency, independence, reserved and collected behaviors, and resistance to seeking or requesting help. Patrón says while such forms of masculinity are pervasive in Latinx communities, they are not inherent or exclusive to those communities. Masculine ideologies and gendered expectations operate throughout our society and are influenced by systems of oppression.

In other news, social media can have a huge impact on our lives, affecting our ability to communicate with others and sometimes, our mental health. IU student Britain Taylor is hoping to help people have a healthy relationship with social media through the development of ShuffleMe, a predictive software app that helps users track the impact of social media on their mental health. Still in beta testing, the app uses a computer or phone’s camera. The app runs in the background, tracking social media activity against facial expressions, and recording patterns in emotional responses. Taylor says a dashboard then shows users which social media channels and specific content have impacted their mood. To address privacy concerns, the user data is only used to create the dashboard report, then it is immediately deleted. Taylor says the app can help people, especially young people, learn which channels and content impact their mood and empower them to make specific, effective changes to their social feeds, their behavior, and eventually their happiness. Taylor says her hope is that the app benefits young adults who are active social media users and who are seeking help for mental health issues, and that it provides insights for all of us into the way social media can affect our moods.