9 March 2023 O’Connor ’23 on Masculinity, Social Media and Toxic Influence

Jordan O’Connor ’23 joined WXXI’s Connections with Evan Dawson to discuss toxic influencers and navigating the social spaces in which their messages flourish, both online and off.

In February, Connections with Evan Dawson hosted a panel exploring the impact of media influencers peddling misogynistic, violent or otherwise objectionable messages. History major and Hobart football player Jordan O’Connor ’23 joined other voices from the Western New York region, including Melanie Funchess, CEO and Principal of Ubuntu Village Works LLC; Matthew Martin Nickoloff, pastor of the South Wedge Mission; and Matt Liston, community trainer at the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.

Jordan O'Connor '23 portrait

Jordan O'Connor '23

The panel used the recent arrest of inflammatory online personality Andrew Tate to discuss the social conditions that allow voices like his to find an audience.

O’Connor noted both the speed at which young people encounter messages — “most of what I consume is 30 second sound bites,” he noted — as well as the importance of “spheres of influences” in shaping acceptable behavior. He pointed to athletes who set the tone by talking “about their support systems and everyone who's built them up, their communities, their upbringings…. [As] an aspiring coach and as an aspiring educator, I can turn to kids that I am instructing and say these are the individuals who I think are setting the tone for our community and our circle.... I’m also worried about communities that don’t have those influential people.”

Citing Voltaire’s adage about tending one’s own garden, O’Connor said: “it all starts with how you conduct yourself…then let[ting] that trickle out to the world around you..… I'd rather people see the way I live my life and the way I conduct myself, as my message.”

Listen to the full episode.