When We’re Scared We Get Loud

by Matt Mattson

I love TFM. I really do. Here are three reasons.

1. It’s funny. I honestly think some of their stuff is hilarious. Not always. But, it’s funny. Crude? Yes, of course. Sometimes that’s funny you prudes. I’m not ashamed to say it. Funny.

2. They always have fresh content. I appreciate and respect their ability to churn out content consistently. They’ve lasted for over 6 years. A couple of entrepreneurial guys just out of college worked their fingers to the bone churning out content and built a little empire out of it. Respect.

3. TFM is a wide open window into the insecurities of young men. TFM provides the most transparent look into the anxieties many college aged men feel or felt (including me as a collegian). Seriously. The site is like an encyclopedia of “things guys do, say, or think about when we get scared that people don’t love us.”

Now, #3 might raise some eyebrows. Actually, all three might. But I mean what I say here.

Listen, I’ll admit it. In the past, I have gotten angry, frustrated, and red-faced-pissed-off at the frattiest of frat guys. They’ve heckled me from afar, they’ve threatened me via social media, and they’ve sat slack-jawed-dip-cup-hat-backwards-douchebag-faced in the seats of many of my programs.

But I’m here to tell you… I’ve turned a new leaf. I love those guys now. I mean, I really love them.

My mind changed about a year ago (I wish my maturity had kicked in earlier, but I really shifted my thinking only about a year ago). I was on a phone call with Vince Fabra and he was talking about one of these guys in one of his audiences. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “this kid just reeked of insecurity so I knew he probably just needed attention.” A lightbulb went off for me. I mean, this shouldn’t have been a revelation by any means. I’m a smart cat. But this was an emotional moment for me. I decided then and there that these guys needed love.

Here’s why. I started to remember my time as an undergraduate fraternity man. Not the glorious Chapter-President-did-the-right-thing moments. But the moments when I had no idea who I was and would have done anything to just fit in because, looking back, that’s all that mattered to me then. I just wanted to be important to some people. Fraternity gave me that. I just wanted to be loved. [I didn't know this at the time, but it's so obvious now.] I tried on multiple identities, I experimented with different ways of being, I went through a indie-rock/grunge phase then quickly into a hip-hop Michigan kid (read: be like Eminem) phase, then back and forth again. I was certain that strangers thought I was ugly and weird, and even more certain and more frightened that my best male friends thought I was weak, small, dorky, and lame. I just wanted them to like me.

If TFM had existed in 1996, I would have freaking loved it. It would have been more hemp necklace than bow tie with a dog or whale or whatever on it. But still. I would have loved it. It would have been a safe place for a regular kid like me. It would have been an easy to access identity that I could just adopt and hide within until I figured out who the hell I really was.

I’ve been working with fraternity men for a long time. I’ve noticed something. Maybe you’ve noticed it too. When we get scared we get loud. Well, maybe you just noticed the loud part. But I think the reason for it is that if we are in a group, and we’re loud, nobody can hurt us (or at least it feels this way). Our forefathers’ forefathers were warriors. They had to get loud in groups to stay safe and to keep the tribe alive. This is in our blood. We get loud together, which means that “I” am not in question anymore — “we” collectively are all that is noticed. By disappearing as individuals, we gain confidence, connectedness, and a feeling of invincibility. When we get scared we get loud. That’s what all the noise is about.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: fraternity/sorority professionals who complain about fratty guys and try to educate the frat out of them… knock it off. I tried it for over a decade. It didn’t work. You know what they need? A little love and understanding and to know that they’re safe and that you get them. They need some respect.

I’ve been talking about love a lot lately — in blogs, in programs, and in conversations. Probably seems a little strange from a recruitment/marketing guy. When I was a student, if I had brought up “love” in certain circles, I would have gotten my ass kicked out of those circles. But today’s undergraduate fraternity man seems to be a different guy. I’m noticing more evolved, sophisticated, and empathetic conversations. I’ve been blatantly talking with them about the obvious “masks over insecurities” that fraternity men wear (i.e. TFM), and that concept has been received with knowing nods and warm smiles from those men. Today’s fraternity men are still messed up, but that’s partially because nobody’s having real conversations with them about the stuff they’re scared of, going through, worried about, and secretly feeling pressured to achieve. They kind of want to talk about it you guys.

The story of all fraternity men is a mystery to me. I probably only really understand my own story — or that of “guys like me.” But I’ll bet a few notes of this post resonate with a lot of fraternity men. I hope so anyway.

All this is to say the following:

a) FSL Pros: Give these guys some love. They’re begging for it.

b) Fraternity Men: You might be wearing a mask. That mask might be about covering up some insecurities or some real shit you’re going through. If that’s not you, then feel free to ignore this and don’t harass me in the comments section. If that is you, I’ve been there and you’re not alone.