Nuances of the On-Line Life: Technology Addiction, Video Games, Pornography and Empathy – October 2014
October 23, 2014
There are many aspects of life in the 21st century. Some of them are unutterably tragic. Some of them bring an almost miraculous hope, like the new social neuroscience research on healing and relationship. And some of them are stunningly unpredictable, like the strange effects of having the extended brain of the World Wide Web available to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Never before have we been able to fact check our own stories on our smart phones before we speak, communicate across the world with a few clicks, or have access to unlimited streams of pornography no matter how young we are.
The internet is changing our brains. We are as capable of becoming addicted to web browsing, social media, video games and pornography as we are of becoming addicted to cigarettes, alcohol or heroin. Each time we refresh our email in-box or post something new on Facebook, we can self-administer a dose of dopamine, just like a rat pressing a lever in a laboratory cage.
Young boys who begin using internet porn can be pulled by novelty deeper and deeper into the dark caverns of human sexuality, and can even start having erectile dysfunction as early as their teens. The more that both boys and girls view pornography, the more sexual partners they will tend to have, and the more likely they are to engage in sexually risky activities.
And just like any other addiction, the cause is not availability, it is pain. The key is not prevention through limitation of access or legislation, it is prevention through many experiences of real, responsive, resonant relationship. Resilience comes from belonging, warmth, being understood and knowing that we are loved.
Our committed practice of nonviolent communication makes room for this kind of connection. And it doesn’t necessarily happen when we are speaking using NVC, something we are most likely to do during times of conflict. It’s more the space that is cleared for presence, and the space that is made for the other to truly exist for us, that comes with depth empathy. As we relax into our expansive selves, we start to feel safe, and play enters the picture. With the arrival of play and delight, our relationships with each other and with the world’s children become more interesting and novel than new kinds of pornography, Facebook, and video games. People who have experienced and internalized resonance need fewer substances, and have a kind of inoculation against addiction.
Welcome to a sweet new world.