Sunday Posts #4

The future of men's media is protein powder accelerated nihilism

Hi! Welcome to Sunday Posts. It’s a new thing I’m trying out in order to try Tweet less and make sense of what’s going on on the internet right now. It’s not a snapshot of ‘what’s going on on the internet’, but rather, trying to make sense of how I interact with information - and crucially, an oversupply of it in the form of content- and how that shapes the way I think people move through the offline, material world. If that sounds interesting to you, please do subscribe:

Apologies for the late newsletter. This week, I’ve been working on university assignments, sending in doctoral applications and working on some other projects. This also means that I’m pushing back some of the analysis/interviews I’ve been doing for the next stage of this newsletter - hopefully when things are less busy, I’ll get the time to transcribe them. In the meantime, a reminder that I do internet analysis weekly on Ten Thousand Posts , a podcast about why everything is posting, and that you can get bonus editions on Patreon. You can subscribe for $5 a month, and it really helps us grow the show and explore how the internet actually works, rather than how tech dorks think it does.

The Future Of Men’s Media Might Lie In Nihilistic Self Improvement

As mentioned in the previous edition of Sunday Posts, MEL magazine, a men’s interest publication that I used to be a staff writer for, shuttered operations. The publication is currently looking for new buyers, and arguing that the number of people praising it as a publication that’s genuinely interested what men do, rather than what they should do (in contrast to the Men’s Health/Men’s Fitness genre) is needed. During my time at MEL I experienced a fair amount of jibes about it being for cucks/soyboys/coomers etc, especially when we every published something that was even vaguely progressive in its politics, or genuinely tried to explore the consequences of particular online behaviours - I’ll never forget when, upon publishing this essay on the effects ‘Red Pill’ communities have had on actual relationships, having my work email flooded with insults, jibes and, uh, inter-racial porn. Ultimately, I had always felt a weird tension during my time at MEL; I was broadly happy with my work, and believed in the value of its core mission. But I was never quite sure if it was an antidote to traditional men’s media, or even if it was attempting to address the gaps left by well-funded men’s magazines. In fact, having been a Men’s Health subscriber in the past and having a keen interest in men’s publishing, it felt that while MEL was addressing important questions that existed in the intersections of internet culture and masculinity, conventional men’s magazines were taking cues from other reactionary parts of the internet. In short, how they viewed the male condition was wholly different to how we did.

A few weeks ago, a friend in the UK media industry asked where I thought the future of men’s media - if it does exist- would be heading. In some ways, it’s really a subset of the broader question of where “media” is heading to - a question that I’m not suited to answer meaningfully, but also, a speculation that is very likely to be wrong. I shrugged my shoulders and suggested that it might delve further into advertorial content for fitness apps and wellness products, but, lacking much bite, would probably face a similar fate to most legacy magazines.

A few days ago, the Youtube algorithm added a new channel into my recommended feed. The channel is run by the model, former reality show contestant and podcaster Chris Williamson, who runs a podcast called “Modern Wisdom”. The show is probably best described as an attempt to develop a modern guide for life, through long-form podcast interviews with well known commentators, influencers, athletes and, crucially, self-help experts. When you go on Williamson’s Youtube channel, you’ll be given content that ranges from this:

to this:

and this:

What I find fascinating about Williamson’s channel less the mix of guests or subject matter, than in its ability to merge distinct, but related trends of male-centred interests into a regular stream of content. A friend familiar with Williamson’s channel had put it best - what if you combined the anxieties of an impending, ‘woke’ cancel-culture obsessed mob held by reactionaries (as seen in shows such as the British political podcast Triggerometry) with the wellness and health content being churned out by Youtube doctors like Rangan Chaterjee and Dr Mike? . You could argue that this is essentially the blueprint of the Joe Rogan Experience (and, certainly a lot of podcasts akin to Williamson’s does seem to imitate Rogan’s style). But, I think Williamson’s content is actually more thought out, and tells a much more interesting story about men in their late twenties to fourties (who I assume are the main demographic).

Having watched a few of Williamson’s podcasts over the past few days, what I found interesting was reasons that I had been drawn to the content. I started with an interview on attaining “mental self-mastery” with systems designer Ryan Bush, who provided insights into “restructuring emotions” and “modulating desires”. Later, I moved onto a video about automation, and the risks to losing jobs and a “loss of purpose”, and how a cognitive reset would be necessary to co-exist with cyborg professionals. Finally, because I am a glutton for punishment, I finished with Williamson’s interview with Andrew Doyle , who argued that even the basic liberties of posting online - something that (i think) Doyle considers to be the last bastion of authentic expression- were being eroded by Marxists in Silicon Valley - and that this was yet another example of the Leftist threat to democracy.

While these interviews were all on separate topics and issues, all with different interviewees, I found that it didn’t take long to imagine how Williamson’s audiences view the world, and why they might find his content to be the best way to try understand it. Williamson’s content is disparate by design, and rather than interrogating, it accepts the claims at face value - because, it’s not the specifics that Williamson or his audience are actually interested in. Rather, it’s the emotive affect that is emitted: an understanding of a world that doesn’t make sense, where those within it are constantly conscious of threats, and suspicious of individuals and groups seeking to overturn any social order. Indeed, conceptions of change shouldn’t be societal, but rather, rooted in the individual. It’s a world where men feel change is more likely to come through incorporating intensive breathing into their workouts or experimenting with nootropics to blunt negative cognitive patterns, than imagine the possibility of a different kind relationship between the citizen and the state. And I can see why it appeals: What Williamson offers through his content are seemingly achievable goals - and crucially, changes that his listeners can adopt without thinking about their position within an increasingly decaying and disorientated society.

At a time when conversations about men often are often centred around ignored and decaying mental health - and the underlining sense of societal alienation that accentuates it- content that provides a pathway to individualised enhancement is appealing and effective - a type of content that, rather than advocating for how society should, or could look like, subtly advocates for an entire revocation from it. Why live in a society when you can just lift weights and be self-sufficient through crypto?

Things I Enjoyed This Week

As mentioned, this week I’ve been really swamped with work, and so I haven’t actually done much that isn’t about anthropology. However, I did get a chance to watch this beautiful documentary on the Marxist Historian Eric Hobsbawm. I first read his work in my first year of undergrad, and it was the first time I’d read any Big History book that focussed on global systems and revolutionary potential. You can watch the whole thing here .

I’ve also been reading David Foster Wallace’s essays on Tennis. The writer’s relationship with the game is described well here . I haven’t read a lot of Wallace until now, and I think what’s drawn me to him is the way in which his descriptions on the mendacity of the Illinois suburbs he grew up in aren’t too dissimilar from the grey commuter town I grew up and still live in. For him, a Tennis court also represented the defined boundaries of his community, and his playing style is described not as a result of skill or athleticism, but how to use unfavourable conditions to your advantage. In closed off, claustrophobic spaces, working within the confines is as much a survival technique as it is cunning strategy.