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Stumbling Through Manhood

For my own amusement, I went stumbling through StumbleUpon last night looking for something interesting. I went into the “Interests” menu and saw that one of the things I’d told StumbleUpon that I was interested in was “Men’s Issues”.

Men’s issues? What are men’s issues?

I decided to do a little experiment: Stumbling through the “Men’s Issues” category for five minutes, what would this StumbleUpon snapshot tell me about what the Internet thinks men really care about?

I had a cynical certainty that I wouldn’t come across any parenting websites. I’ve maintained for a while that men don’t really read parenting blogs or websites. Certainly not in anything like the numbers that women do. But maybe StumbleUpon would help me rethink that assumption.

I don’t really know how StumbleUpon works: I just know that I click the “Stumble” button and it takes me to a webpage that it thinks I will like, based on the interests I’ve checked, who I’m following on the service, and what sorts of sites I’ve given a thumbs up to in the past. I don’t know which of these gets the most weight: Does it care first and foremost what the people I follow have liked? It doesn’t seem overwhelmingly so, since I often arrive at sites that are recommended by no one I know. Does it matter most what I’ve given the thumbs up or thumbs down to? I have to think not, since I’m constantly giving the thumbs down to baking recipes, but when I stumble through the “Cooking” interest category, I am overwhelmed with baking recipes. So maybe it cares most about the category of interest I’ve selected.

If that’s the case, then seeing what pages come up during a “Men’s Issues” stumble session might be more revealing about the Internet than it is about my own browsing habits, or the habits of the friends I follow on the service. (Even if this isn’t how StumbleUpon really works, I figured I’d still learn something, even if it was only what vibe I’ve been sending out with my thumbs-up/thumbs-down sampling of the Internet up to then).

I was actually a little surprised about what I found during my five minutes with StumbleUpon. Here are the pages I hit, in order:

  1. Curiosities: Vintage Men’s Magazines
  2. The SOL Origin Survival Kit | Cool Material
  3. Things Every Man Should Own – What Every Man Needs – Esquire
  4. To Be A Dad « Men Aren’t That Deep
  5. The Only Three Supplements You Need | Men’s Journal
  6. Dating/Sex
  7. Crime & Federalism: Game for Married Men
  8. Guy Style Guide | Mens Fashion Tips: 15 Astounding Style Commandments
  9. A Guide To Adjusting Your Junk In Public | The Dude Society – An online magazine for guys
  10. How To: Choose the right sunglasses for your face | The Men’s Room
  11. all about beards: designing a neck line
  12. Stanford University SmartSwitch
  13. Men’s Grooming Tips and Information
  14. 10 Skills a Man Must Possess
  15. Mercedes G-Wagon LAPV 6.X Concept | Cool Material
  16. ThomasJamesBall.com – Home
  17. The Man Dojo A Blog for Real Men
  18. 8 Reasons Why Being Bald Is Brilliant | Life | Sabotage Times
  19. Double Edge Wet Shaving
  20. Appearance – AskMen

Now, I thought it was going to be all cars and chicks and power tools, because I don’t think much of what popular culture has to tell men about themselves. But either I underestimated the Internet, or I’ve influenced the StumbleUpon results away from most of those pages. Most of the sites that came up were about grooming/fashion/style: pretty vain stuff, which leads me to believe my ego has been having an effect.

There was also a parenting site (though only one) which gives me hope for myself/the Internet as I ask it what men’s issues are. Sadly, there’s also a link to a page about a man who set himself on fire to protest the corruption he saw in family courts, which reveals an entirely different set of men’s issues than I expected to see.

There are two gadget links on the list, and there’s an article about a car. But there isn’t a single link to pictures of scantily clad women, or to articles about what women really think, although there is a link to a generic dating/sex aggregator that itself links to pages like that. Unfortunately, there also aren’t any links to pages about gender equality, or respecting women.

There’s no way for me to know what kind of picture of men’s issues can truly be recreated from this small sample, but I think it’s an interesting checkpoint. Even if all that is revealed here is that I sure do care a lot about personal grooming, that’s still worth knowing. But if it reveals more, then maybe men are into more things than just cars, babes, and sports (which, as you might have noticed, also didn’t make the list). That would be worth knowing.

Try playing the StumbleUpon game yourself. Choose “Men’s Issues” or “Women’s Issues” and just see what comes up in a five minute window. What picture of culture, or of yourself, do you get?

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