According to psychologist Philip Zimbardo, young men in America are doomed–at least they are educationally, relationally, and sexually. As he says at the beginning of his recent TED Talks video, “The Demise of Guys,”
Guys are flaming out academically, they’re wiping out relationally with girls, and sexually with women. Other than that, there’s not much of a problem.
You may remember Zimbardo from his famous “Stanford prison experiment,” which divided students into “prisoners” and “guards” to study the effects of power relationships. Now he’s looking at why it is that young men in America seem to be performing poorly in so many areas. Educationally “girls now outperform boys at all levels from elementary school to graduate school.” And relationally guys are rather clueless. (That’s been true for a long time, but apparently it’s getting worse.)
And Zimbardo argues that this comes largely from three things:
- Excessive internet use
- Excessive video gaming
- Addiction to pornography
All three of these contribute to the growth of “arousal addictions.” In other words, constant exposure to these technologies creates an addiction to “difference.” As Zimbardo says, “Boys brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way for change, novelty, excitement, and constant arousal.” And this arousal addiction causes problems in the classroom, where more “static” forms of teaching are the norm, and in significant relationships, which “build gradually and subtly.” As a result, young men perform poorly in both areas, and it’s not getting any better.
Zimbardo offers no solutions to these problems. As he states candidly at the end of the video, he’s just an “alarmist.” But he does add his voice to the growing number of people concerned about the impact of constant technological stimulation on young brains.
Here’s the whole video.
You may also be interested in my follow-up posts on why “Your Daughter Is More Likely to Get a Degree than Your Son” and ”The Great Porn Experiment and the Resurrection of Guys.”