The Good Men Project, Empathy, and Why Things Go Viral.

Lisa Hickey, with a summary of The Good Men Project Roundtable held on June 22. 

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These days, I don’t get nearly as many phone calls as I used to. Maybe one per hour. Which is not nearly as many as the 600 emails I get per hour. On a good day.

And when people do call me up on the phone, it’s usually pretty predictable as to what those calls are going to be about. Often it’s one of my dedicated staff members, with a brilliant idea or a quick question. A potential new writer wondering what we’re all about. A media company that wants to partner with us. A possible sponsor or advertiser.

But lately, once every 2 or 3 days, I’ll get a call from someone who says “Hey, I’m doing an installation of shelving for a national retail fashion store chain all across the country. Can you give me a price for all of the shelving, the hardware to affix it, and labor? It would be like, 30 stores.” Sometimes it’s demolition they want, not installation. Sometimes they want to know my opinion on the size and type of hinges and screws. Sometimes the job they want quoted is for re-doing Country Clubs or Firehouses instead of department stores.

And I have to explain that The Good Men Project is a media company, not a contracting company. That we build things figuratively not literally.

Apparently, the Yellow Pages, in its infinite wisdom, had seen the words The Good Men Project and had made stereotypical assumptions based on those words. And judging from the enthusiastic response, the name is enough for people to think we have not just a contracting business, but a big contracting business.

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We’re very close to having had 5 million absolutely unique visitors come to our site since we launched.

5 million people is the size of Singapore. Or Norway. I know we’re improving, because only a few months ago, our absolute unique visitor was the size of Fiji. We’re moving up in the world, literally.

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Today, contributor and comment moderator Danny Gibbs sent a email to our group of fellow Good Men Project comment moderators. He said:

“Something just hit me folks. I’ve been seeing the word empathy come up quite a bit this week. Perhaps an Open Thread about it? Define it, talk about why some people don’t fee it, talk about how we can make sure our empathy is being received….”

Danny, in case you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, is an active and vocal MRA (Men’s Rights Activist). He is one of two MRA’s we have helping with comment moderation. The other is Peter, who, residing the in the UK, helps with our quest to have comments moderated 24/7. Peter is not the only moderator in the UK. He is assisted by Heather, an active and vocal feminist. In fact, we brought on MRA’s to help moderate precisely to balance out the feminist-leaning moderators who had originally been the first to volunteer. Danny had run-ins with our EIC, Noah Brand, long before No Seriously, What About teh Menz merged into GMP. Noah is now the first to proclaim what a valuable member of the community Danny is. Danny recently ran the awesome section on Male Body Image, for which Noah bared all.

And today, Danny was talking about Empathy.

Mark Greene was on the email thread about empathy, and jumped in with his own view of it. Mark said:

“Empathy will save the human race. We need to encourage it in ourselves and display it to those we encounter. We’ve done enough telling. Now we need to listen and bear witness to the stories that are screaming to get out of others. In doing so, we transform them, ourselves, and the world.”

I, of course, chimed in with my own POV.

“I want to add my view that the development of empathy is actually everything we’re trying to do here. When Tom Matlack first had the idea about The Good Men Project, it was so that “men could tell stories that changed the teller and changed the listener.” And that “change” — actually is empathy. It’s seeing the world through someone else’s eyes in a way you never did before.

In fact, the whole goal of The Good Men Project is to take those moments, those individual moments of empathy and insight, and make them scalable. That’s how you go from individual change to social change.”

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On the call, Mark Sherman jumped in with a quick example of empathy. If you’ve grown up in a homophobic house, for example, it’s hard to be anything but homophobic. But by becoming part of a group that has friends who are gay, you get over it. It’s hard to hate people as a group when you like them as individuals.

Mark also jumped in with his view of how boys have been lagging behind, to the point where we are almost at a crisis point. We need empathy to see that. You can read his post on the subject The End of Boys, here.

Thaddeus Howze wondered whether people really cared about boys from the point of view of first-person narratives. He had written about his son, who is autistic, and begins his story with all the things his son is. But the sad part is, says Thaddeus, is that what you will remember is that is son has autism and likely nothing else. And Thaddeus built on what Mark and others were saying about empathy — that people today don’t see. “People today do not use their eyes. They use their televisions.”

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To me, that’s why what we’re doing is different than mainstream media. We are not passive media that people watch. We are “participatory media” – where people are actively a part of the news. It’s the reason our mergers with other blogs can be a part of our business plan. Together we talk about everything related to men – the good, and the provocative, and together we act and scale, and build something of substance.

On the call, we also talked about how things “go viral”. I mentioned studies from Kevin Allocca, the trend manager at YouTube, whose job it is to study how videos go viral. Kevin has found that often, videos wouldn’t start out as hits, they’d just chug along with a few hits a day until someone with enough critical mass saw it and sent it out to the masses. Thaddeus how calls that “Cascading Resonance” – how a hit piece will build and resonate with people until jumps across groups and then can’t help but be a viral hit.

Watch the video, it’s cool. And there’s talk of empathy there, too.

photo by billjacobus1 / flickr

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About Lisa Hickey

Lisa Hickey is CEO of Good Men Media Inc. and publisher of the Good Men Project. "I like to create things that capture the imagination of the general public and become part of the popular culture for years to come." Connect with her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Danny, in case you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, is an active and vocal MRA (Men’s Rights Activist). He is one of two MRA’s we have helping with comment moderation.
    Actually just to clarify I don’t identify as an MRA. I can understand thinking that way but I’m not. Just for the record.

    (Back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

    • Quadruple A says:

      I can understand your reluctance with that label. The Good Men Project glossary defines MRA as an anti-feminist. I disagree with that strongly, but there is that label with its connotations. I think you can work to break the glass ceiling for women while also opposing prejudices against men that harm both sexes.

      • Yeah that’s a part of it. But beyond individual reasons for not taking on individual labels (because I also actively refuse to identify as feminist despite being called one of those before as well) I’m not too much of a fan of claiming labels.

        I think you can work to break the glass ceiling for women while also opposing prejudices against men that harm both sexes.
        Even simpler than that. I think its entirely possible to oppose sexism against men or sexism against women without denying or downplaying the other.

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          Thanks for clearing that up Danny, and sorry, I didn’t mean to give you that label if you do not identify with that group.

          I think its entirely possible to oppose sexism against men or sexism against women without denying or downplaying the other.

          That is great. So totally agree. I think we could all do well to embrace that sentiment.

      • You can. But you’ll have damn few allies in that fight. Misogyny scored a real coup when it coopted men’s rights, and it’ll probably take a generation to change that.

  2. “The other is Peter, who, residing the in the UK, helps with our quest to have comments moderated 24/7.”

    Oo Peter’s in Ireland…you’r soooo gunna get in trouble for that. LOL. ;)

    Really though, looks like an excellent call.

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