Dr. James Emery White

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Men in Crisis

Some quick questions:

Do you prefer porn to real women?

Would you rather be at the office or at home?

Would you rather watch football than play it?

Would you rather imagine being buff through a character on a game or by actually going to the gym and working out?

Many of you thought: porn, office, watch and game.

And that’s not good.

A new book by psychologist Philip Zimbardo argues that technology, online porn, gaming and sedentary jobs are causing terrible damage to the male psyche.

Get this:

Americans spend 60 hours a week plugged into the four main digital devices: high-definition televisions, computers, tablets and smartphones. 

A detailed analysis of the book from The Telegraph is worth relaying at length:

“Video games and porn are this safer place for many young men. They become increasingly adept and skilled at gaming, refining their skills, and they can achieve high status and respect within the game. This is not something you see women doing, because they often don’t find those kinds of competitions meaningful, nor do they receive respect for developing their gaming skills.

“The statistics on video game consumption are staggering. In 2012 ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’ made $500 million in sales in its first 24 hours. The following year, more than 8,300 stores across North America had midnight openings to help ‘Grand Theft Auto 5take in $800 million in its first day; the game went on to rack up $1 billion in only three days, faster than any movie in history.

“In 2013, the worldwide revenue of the gaming industry, including mobile games played on smartphones and tablets, was $66 billion, a $3 billion increase from 2012.

“In his book, Zimbardo, a psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University, best known for leading the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971, focuses mainly on young American males, but some UK facts and stats are just as worrying. A young British person, for instance, is more likely to have a television in their bedroom than a father in the house by the end of their childhood. The comparison is not incidental: to understand our increased use of technology, Zimbardo argues, we have to take into account other trends that are radically altering male identity, such as absent fathers, unemployment, lack of exercise and lack of positive male role models.

“The work environment has also changed. Men who used to work in factories or laboratories or drawing offices may now be deskbound all their adult lives. There has also been a drift away from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professions in favor of service industries and so-called creative industries. Western males are more than happy to use machines, but they let the Third World make them.

“A shy boy or man might prefer to be online than out and about. At school or in the street, he is weak, weedy, or just ordinary. In his computer he can kill machine-gun-wielding soldiers and have sex with tall, perfect-looking women. ‘The digital self becomes less and less like the real-life operator,’ writes Zimbardo.

“It’s easy to see how this collapse of the psyche can become a vicious circle. Shyness leads to staying in more, and that in turn leads to the stunted development of social skills, which leads to more debilitating shyness.

“In 2013 PornHub was the 35th most visited website for children aged 6 to 14 in the UK. Zimbardo refers to research by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam which demonstrated that men usually have what they term ‘single-cue arousability.’ Give a man the image of a pair of attractive breasts or a curvy backside and they are half-way to happiness, where women need multiple cues: they are aroused by men who are ‘attractive and nice to children and self-confident.’

“The consequences of the new dependence on technology are myriad. As well as shyness and social isolation, Zimbardo illustrates the risk of memory slippages as we rely on the net for information and calendars and other prompts; a loss of capacity for sustained attention; a decreased ability to enjoy long-form reading; and even behavioural changes such as the loss of facial expressions (why use them if no one sees them?).

“Zimbardo also points to profound and sweeping changes in Western society. There has, he believes, been an erosion of the Protestant work ethic, and with it the old ideals of responsibility and self-respect. The concept of the male breadwinner has gone – sometimes heralded as a triumph of feminism – but it has not, from men’s point of view, been replaced by anything equally motivating and centering.

“All of which indicates that the men-technology relationship cannot be reduced to one factor, or one kind of media, or one behavioural area. It’s when you combine absent fathers, staying at home into early adulthood, video gaming, overreliance on internet porn, obesity (with its associated decline in testosterone and increase in oestrogen) and lack of physical activity, educational failure, joblessness and lack of opportunities for interaction – plus a women’s movement that continues to empower that gender and thrust positive female role models into economic and political arenas – that you have the makings of a screwed-up masculinity with all the wider social consequences that implies.” 

So again, the title of the blog:

Men in crisis.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Chris Moss, “Men and boys are in crisis, and technology is to blame,” The Telegraph, May 10, 2015, read online.

Philip Zimbardo & Nikita D. Columbe, Man (Dis)Connected: How Technology Has Sabotaged What it Means to be Male (Rider & Co, 2015)

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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