Monday, June 4, 2012

Arousing ourselves to death...

Of all places, CNN reported on the consequences of spending so much time playing video games and watching porn on the internet -- the specific consequences on guys.  You can read it all here but I have copied a few paragraphs.

Is the overuse of video games and pervasiveness of online porn causing the demise of guys?  Increasingly, researchers say yes, as young men become hooked on arousal, sacrificing their schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.

Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug in order to get the same quality of buzz.

Video game and porn addictions are different. They are "arousal addictions," where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.

The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.

The difference between addictions which crave the SAME thing, these addictions crave the surprise of that which is new, novel, and different.  They do not seek to repeat an experience but rather seek constantly new experiences.  In this way, the addictions cannot ever be satisfied.  They expand the boundaries by the search for that which is new and different, that which offers something never seen or experienced before.  It is living in a moment defined by arousal (not only sexual) and by that which has not been seen or done before.

This has grave consequences well beyond the realm of pleasure seeking and sexual desire.  It has a crippling effect upon the ability of one who has encountered such addictions early on.  There is the grave difficulty in maintaining work ethic and being satisfied and interested in repeated work tasks.  There is the stifling character of formal relationships of marriage and family which require routines and do not feed the hunger for that which is new or different.  It also explains why commitment has become such an issue for young males in our society.

Read some more:

Young men -- who play video games and use porn the most -- are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.

Such new brains are also totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting.

Guys are also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until "the time is right."

We are amusing ourselves to death (as Neil Postman wrote) but in this case the amusement is not the repeat of favorite or pleasing experiences but an addiction to that which can never be satisfied and which isolates and prevents the very relationships that give stability and satisfaction to our harried and upset lives.  This may also have implications for the participation of young men in Church.  Certainly it is responsible for some part of the increasingly late age of marriage for men and the difficulty in sustaining those long term relationships.  It may also contribute toward the increasing number of young men who live at home instead of choosing independence and the attraction to what is new and different in technology that often is stilted toward young men.  I wonder if it is not part of the problem that some women complain about in men who are really adult children, unable or unwilling to grow up.  Could it be that this is also a possible contributing factor in the growing diagnosis of mood disorder and autism and its related conditions -- more prevalent in men than women?  Who knows but it is certainly something we need to watch and study...



Janis Williams said...

Could this also be a continuing feed to the problem of men uninterested in church attendance? In a rewired brain, the Liturgy would the the absolute worst...

Could this also be part of the reason for the whole worship wars issue? No doubt, some of those rewired (at least partially so) young men end up in pulpits.

Anonymous said...

Porn addiction has ruined many
marriages. Women become toys for
men who want instant gratification
and get tired of the same marital
partner. The church needs to reach
out to porn addicts with the healing
message of Christ who changes our
selfish priorities of lust into
self-sacrificing love for our wife.

Anonymous said...

Why is it everyone is so concerned when men do this?

Shopping anyone?
This is the addiction to seeing and buying new and different stuff.

Wasting time reading trashy romance novels?
Aka female fantasy porn.

When women do it, it is quaint, or at worst a mild indulgence. When men do it, omg their brains are being rewired! They are addicts!!!

When men delay marriage but have their finances and career in order, they are considered "irresponsible." When women delay marriage, get into debt due to their wasteful and indulgent shopping habit and maybe have and illegitimate kid, they are the new saints, the struggling and valiant single moms. This is such nonsense. Just a bunch of man bashing.

I am not really defending bad habits of guys and just crying foul that women's lusts and vanity and bad habits don't get the same criticism as men's do.

Anonymous said...

The women who complain that men are adult children usually have created their own adult child. Do these women really trust their husband to watch the children and do it right? (the only right way is the way she wants it done).

I am a different anonymous but he/she is right.

Anonymous said...

Men: What Happened?

Women: What Happened?

Ben Carmack said...

As a young man myself, and a recently converted new Lutheran, I'll take a stab at this.

Life for many of us young men has become rather meaningless, desperate and brutish. Student loan debt, crushed dreams, a poor job market, lack of family stability and other factors combine to drive many of us to escapism, rather through porn, video games, marijuana, alcohol, partying and such. It's happened to many of my Christian friends and to me also.

Technology simply makes it very easy to escape the problems of life, and those problems aren't going away anytime soon. The long term picture for wage growth is not promising. In all likelihood, young men my age are not going to have it as good as our fathers and we know it. Everything in our lives however has not prepared us for this reality. We have been told from infancy of our "special-ness", our "self-esteem," "be anything you want to be" etc., but it ain't happening.

As for me, I know I'm unusual here, but the grounding of the Liturgy was a real life-saver for me. I have noticed since becoming Lutheran and participating regularly in the Sacramental life of my parish, I feel stronger in the face of the temptation to do compulsive things like look at porn. Lest anyone think otherwise, the power of the Word and Sacraments are very real.

But it will take time for young men my age to realize that the "self-esteem" and "be whatever you want to be" nonsense they were taught in school by well-meaning parents and teachers was pure bunk. What they need is the Theology of the Cross, a way to deal with suffering and the realities of this life that is life-giving, rather than a way that imposes ever more demands on them to be more and do more, in order to reach for benefits that aren't going to be there anyway.

Now as I said, I am an unusual case. I found my way to Lutheranism through study and reading, but many others like me won't come that route. I would strongly encourage you Pastor Peters and others to be take your Lutheran faith seriously and do be mindful of those who need the Gospel in this rather depressing age.

Pastor Peters said...

Ben Caramack, you made my day and your story shone through like sunshine cutting the fog. Bless you!

Anonymous said...

Psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo conveniently neglected to add one more factor: Youth fascination with spectator sports. How many young men have you met who are able to have an intelligent conversation (or any conversation at all) that is not sports-related?

Ben Carmack: Your testimony should be shouted from the housetops!


~~Cafeteria Lutheran

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

An interesting contrast of definitions of "Church" is presented in these comments.

One anonymous says:

"The church needs to reach
out to porn addicts with the healing message of Christ who changes our selfish priorities of lust into self-sacrificing love for our wife."

Then Ben Carmack says:

"the grounding of the Liturgy was a real life-saver for me. I have noticed since becoming Lutheran and participating regularly in the Sacramental life of my parish, I feel stronger in the face of the temptation to do compulsive things like look at porn. Lest anyone think otherwise, the power of the Word and Sacraments are very real."

These are sharply contrasting perspectives of the Church, how people are "helped" through the Church, and even of Christianity.

One person perceives the Church as an entity that is to reach out. The other perceives the Church as a body into which people are incorporated and thereby changed from crybabies looking for someone to blame, to those who are crucified with Christ to be raised to newness of life through the preaching of the Theology of the Cross.

Furthermore, one views sin and righteousness in terms of specific actions and attitudes while the other views sin as a condition of one's nature and righteousness as God's restorative action through the means of grace. It is amazing to see the correspondence between those two differing views and the views of the Church that flow from those views.