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News Men Can Use
Online influencers give practical, actionable insight and advice to young men
I’ve been writing a series of posts expanding on the five points I made in my WSJ op-ed about why men turn to online influencers instead of traditional authorities and institutions.
This is my final installment. It is about how online influencers provide young men with practical, actionable insight and advice. They give men news they can use.
By contrast, church leaders and other mainstream figures tend to give men “Man up!” lectures more than useful information. And what advice they do give is frequently bad because it’s wrong.
As I noted in my review of Sen. Josh Hawley’s book Manhood, he gives a lot of grand themes about what it means to be a man, but little useful information on how to practically live that out.
I’ve also written about how the evangelical model of attraction is wrong, for example.
Online Influencer Casey Zander
Online influencers often give vast amounts of practical advice. There’s Jordan Peterson’s old line, “Clean your room, bucko!” It functions both as a metaphor about how to live, but also for many young men can work in a naively literal way. They can just clean their room as the first step in improving.
I’m going to highlight a couple examples of online men’s influencers doing this. One is from a manosphere figure named Casey Zander. I posted one of his videos before, but it is no longer online. So I just pulled one of his videos from two months ago as an example.
This video is about why women are attracted to men who don’t need them (and turned of by men who do need them). It is only 16 minutes long, safe to watch, and I do highly recommend watching it. While I do not agree with everything in this, it provides a lot of information that actually would be especially helpful to those of you men who are single.
As you can see from the preview image, Zander breaks his thesis down point by point on a white board. He explains the principle, defends the character and nature of women, talks about why the idea that women don’t like “nice guys” isn’t completely accurate, what most nice guys get wrong, the need for a sense of “God given purpose”, what is means to lives as a “centered man” and much, much more.
Whatever you think of this, it very much does provide a practical piece of information, gives the theory underlying it, and lays out the implications of how a man should seek to live and act in response.
This is only the second Zander video I’ve ever watched, and perhaps there’s a lot of objectionable content on his Youtube channel. But you can see from this one why lots of men would want to follow him to get a steady diet of this kind of information.
Navy SEAL Jocko Willink
One of the biggest men’s influencers is former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, who has a large Youtube channel and co-authored the book Extreme Ownership. Jocko is someone I would put into the fully respectable category.
Since I don’t have time for much podcast content, I typically don’t listen to Jocko. But from what I have seen of his material, he is serious, thoughtful, and methodical in how he goes about things. And he promotes a similar strategy to his followers.
Whenever I watch Jocko, he reminds me of an old school basketball coach who stresses the fundamentals. It’s about passing drills, layup drills, sprints, practicing block outs and picks.
We know the fundamental things we are supposed to be doing - eating right, going to the gym, reading books and learning skills, working on our side hustle, giving our children lots of our time and attention, etc. The problem is, we don’t actually do them. And when we do do them, it’s all to easy to find a reason to fall of the wagon. We had to stay at work longer than normal, so we decide to skip the gym. Pretty soon, we aren’t going to the gym at all. We’ve all had that experience.
Jocko calls us back to the basics, and to the discipline to do them consistently, as the foundation. Advanced SEAL tactics don’t mean anything if you aren’t working out every day.
To that end, he’s posting a great series of shorter, roughly two to four minute videos in a series called “Standard Directive.” As of this writing, there are 17 of them out. Each one focuses on a fundamental principle or rule for life.
Here’s one on why we should just get started:
Here’s one on why we should learn to just not care about certain things that could go wrong with the things we plan to do. Planning, contingencies, etc. are good. But we can easily talk ourselves out of not taking action when instead we just need to execute and figure out how to get the job done.
Here’s a particularly good one about how to communicate that you don’t like or have concerns with some particular approach. Go indirect by asking an earnest question. Extremely practical and useful.
Again, there are a lot more of these.
I could dig up a vast archive of similar type content from various influencers providing useful advice for nearly every domain of life: diet, fitness, business, dating and more.
Of course, Youtube has become the go-to place for how-to content in general. I use it all the time whenever I have a home project I want to take on, for example. People today are primed to turn online for information like this.
I don’t do these because I think they will draw me traffic. In fact, they aren’t great performing posts. But it’s part of fulfilling my guiding principle to “build up, don’t just tear down.”
You’ll note that my WSJ op-ed and this five part series also are practical, actionable insight. I just gave pastors a list of five things these online influencers do differently that accounts for why they do a better job for reaching men. These are all things pastors could readily adopt should they choose to.
I also do these practical posts because it’s important for those of us Christian lay people who have skills and knowledge to step up and share them. The truth is, pastors aren’t life coaches and often don’t know what they are talking about in areas outside of their core competency in preaching the Bible and theology. So it’s unfair and even dangerous to rely on them to be general purpose guides to life. That means lay people have to be willing to step up in the areas where they have real insight and experience.
The key is: one reason online influencers attract young men is because they profile practical, actionable insight and advice. To compete with them, we need to be doing the same.
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My series on why men turn to online influences instead of traditional authorities:
What Jordan Peterson Can Teach Church Leaders (in the Wall Street Journal)
The Problem With Servant Leadership (An Aspirational Vision of Manhood)
News Men Can Use (this post)