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Arousal Addiction and the Demise of Guys

young video gamers
Please take five minutes and watch this presentation by psychologist Philip Zimbardo on “The Demise of Guys”, and tell me what you think.

“Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way for change, novelty, excitement and constant arousal. That means they’re totally out of sync in traditional classes, which are analog, static, interactively passive. They’re also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which build gradually and subtly.” – Zimbardo

Zimbardo is also asking for input on a quick survey about this issue, so please contribute to that here: Demise of Guys survey.

One viewer left a reference in a comment to this video of George Carlin, in which he talks about what he calls The Male Disease. It’s not only hilarious, but is also spot-on when it comes to the mainstream culture of men. (Caution: NSFW language – it is George Carlin, after all)

What do you think? Is Zimbardo correct in correlating guys’ use of the internet, video games, and porn to this “arousal addiction” syndrome, or is it just a function of The Male Disease, as Carlin puts it?

Image: OakleyOriginals at Flickr

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12 Responses to Arousal Addiction and the Demise of Guys

  1. He’s spot on. It is validated also by the recent American Academy of Pediatrics formal recommendation to all expecting parents that they should not even have infant children IN THE SAME ROOM AS an operating television until at least the age of 2.
    http://www.aap.org/sections/media/toddlerstv.htm

    As a result, my wife and I got rid of our TV completely during our first pregnancy (since we were moving anyway). You know what, we haven’t missed it, and our child can be just as entertained by media in controlled doses over streaming and DVD content on protable devices now that he is of age.

    Zimbardo was a frequent guest lecturer in my Human Biology classes as an undergraduate at Stanford. I give him a lot of credit.

  2. I’m of the opinion that the single greatest threat the the male’s ability to build lasting, fulfilling romantic relationships is pornography. The ease in which anyone can obtain it and the alarmingly younger and younger age boys are being introduced to it is a recipe for disaster. It’s estimated that boys as young as 7 are already seeing pornographic images on a regular basis and by the time they’re teens they’ve become so desinsitized and their expectations are so out of whack they find themselves unable to not only communicate with the opposite sex but have no capacity to engage in a romantic relationship at any level.

    They become threatened by the real opposite sex, because unlike the images on the monitor, this girl actually talks back, responds and engages in a way that requires him to do the same.

  3. Derek,

    I don’t see it as one or the other being right. It seems to me they are talking about the same problem. Carlin says it well – the male disease is the expectation that the way we aught to be is contrary to how we truly feel. A constant need to BS and stray farther from what is real for us – our own inner experience and the experience of relating with other men and women. The education system, media, some industries, and most recently the internet and video games are just the next step in reinforcing identification with an inauthentic way of being. This is a way of being in the world that is much easier and comes with less risk in the short term, but costs us our sense of self – an authentic experience of being a man, yes, but even more so just being fully human.

    Unfortunately, these days gender roles are blurry enough that the male disease is not exclusive to the male sex. Both sexes can easily become infected.

  4. When I was a child, I didn’t want to eat very much (I’m told). To combat this, my mother discovered that if I was planted in front of the television, I’d eat. So began a long romance with me, TV and eating. But there was a downside: When I grew up, it became clear to me that so many of my ideas were formed not from real life, but from tele-life. At that point I took myself off the television diet. It took years of getting out into the world, of experiencing real life, to remedy the insidious and long-lasting effects of excessive television watching. I can only imagine the damaging effects of computer games, which may be far worse because they are active rather than passive like TV.

  5. It’s funny that in my Zen center, guys hug, express their feelings, talk about all sorts of things, don’t put each other down as a form of emotional expression, and then I try that stuff with my bros at work, and they look flabbergasted at what I am doing. I have been told that kind of behavior is “gay”.

  6. Meh. I found I was getting like this and just watch the same porn now for the past five years. Like I am married to this girl…haha. Anyways give a little credit… I am a guy and I seen a problem and took care of it. We are a little more capable than some may think.

  7. We have the unspoken cultural myth that video games and porn are relatively harmless. This persists in the face long-documented evidence to the contrary. I think that part of the reason it hangs around is that most all of us are right in the middle of the addiction. Two hallmarks of addiction are DENIAL of the problem, and BLAMING something else for negative consequences of the problem. These keep addicts STUCK.
    I’m not sure that society as a whole is going to tackle this any time soon. Perhaps it is cynicism, but electronic entertainment is so integrated into our culture that change will be glacial.
    It is encouraging to see that awareness is increasing though.

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