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.
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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...