August 24, 2011

The Demise of Guys (and a Naked Jennifer Lopez?)

In the TED video below, Psychologist Philip Zimbardo asks, "Why are boys struggling?" Clearly, our young males are struggling on a number of scales mentioned by Mr. Zimbardo. However, I can't bring myself to agree with his diagnosis of the problem. Mr. Zimbardo says it's due to fear of intimacy, social shyness, and being unable to use, "the language of face contact." His term for this issue is, "Social Intensity Syndrome." Apparently it explains why guys prefer male bonding over "female mating." Using a logic I couldn't quite follow, according to Philip, Social Intensity Syndrome somehow explains why guys prefer to be with their buddies watching football on Superbowl Sunday than watching a naked Jennifer Lopez in a film. You'll have to listen to the clip below to see if you can understand that train of thought.

He does us all a service, however, in being another voice raising the issue of too much time spent by adolescent males in the two-dimensional world of the internet. He quotes data from Jane McGonigal, which claims, by age 21, boys have spent 10,000 hours playing internet games, with two-thirds of that time being in isolation. He also quotes Cindy Gallop, who believes as a result of adolescent boys watching 50+ porn clips a week, we are creating men who don't know the difference between making love and doing porn.

I don't agree boy shyness, their comfort being in a male pack, and love of watching any competition in which objects are flying through space is a new "syndrome." I also don't think young males having a vivid sexual fantasy life is in any way new or abnormal. In fact, I think those tendencies are all a natural and direct result of having a male brain and eons of accumulated masculine experience. The danger I do agree with is how the internet can put a powerful magnifying glass on those natural tendencies and ramp up their intensity for better and worse.

I do like that, in this TED video and many other places, there is a larger discussion taking place about how young male brains are being shaped in powerful and unhealthy ways by seductive and targeted digital media, designed to play on normal adolescent drives. Discussions about the issues of destructive media influences or technology-addicted kids need to happen. Those in the business of man-making for young guys, including parents, relatives, and men who want to show up as positive role models, all need to be able to discuss and offer reasonable guidelines to the magnetic draw of the digital universe. Actually being great role models, when it comes to technology use, is a great first step.

A quick internet search on media addiction and boys will turn up countless resources to help us all increase our techno-literacy in relation to our boys. I'll be reviewing some of the resources on this topic in future posts, but give this 5 minute clip by Mr. Zimbardo a listen and see what comes up for you.

If the clip isn't visible use this link.

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  1. Nice Earl, I really agree. Check out my response to the same video on The Good Men Project site. Here's the link:

    Dan Griffin
    Griffin Recovery Enterprises

  2. It's rather easy to "blame greedy corporations" on the demise of masculinity, we're so used to doing that that even though it never works. If corporations were responsible for ruining a gender, women would be a mess. They're bombarded by all sorts of messages that should leave them unempowered blithering fools. But no. That's not what's happening. For several decades the educational establishment has been looking to "empower girls" and has largely succeeded. I don't think this has to come at the expense of boys necessarily but it is part of larger cultural and economic movements that have left men, no less boys, confused and unempowered. The demise of mainstream jobs, the ability of women to function without husbands and children without fathers, the denigration of traditional masculine virtues, all take a toll. You can blame "the gaming industry" but they are more like the shot and a beer tavern where weary men and boys take respite. Sure they can become addict, but Prohibition showed us that "closing the taverns" doesn't work either. So what's to do? First, stop being simplistic and blaming "corporations". Boomers are so predictable and ineffectual (note: I'm one too).
    C. B. Murphy


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